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Set in a 1958 ambience of Johnnie Mathis love songs and beer busts, Annapolis plebe Charlie Hamel's first person account of his hazing ordeal starts off strong with what seems to be a clear indictment of the system, or at least of its potential abuses in the hands of a sadistic, neurotic upperclassman like Ulysses Tate. Having shared Charlie's tension as he suffers Tate's petty harassment and his apparent outrage when he is charged with cheating and convicted by an honor court without even knowing the evidence against him, the reader feels betrayed to learn, at the very last, that Charlie was guilty after all. Not only does this belated admission seem to be a form of cheating on the author's part (since we are led to believe that Charlie is being completely candid), but it undercuts Schmidt's whole view of hazing, which is surely inhuman if it works the way he says it does and would be just as (or more) destructive to a person of unshakable integrity. Despite the fact that Schmidt settles for a compromising ending, he effectively uses the rituals of the hazing -- especially the double talk questions and answers Charlie must memorize -- to build psychological stress and gives us more than a few chances to wonder how we would react in Charlie's place.

Pub Date: June 6th, 1974
Page count: 216pp
Publisher: Crown