Joe Gerberwitz makes his appearance in “He Was Weird” on page 111 of the story. He and Mark are in the same class together in sixth grade but as they went to different elementary schools, didn’t know each other until then. While Joe’s first aggressive act against Mark doesn’t happen until he makes his appearance in the story, we learn that previously, Joe seems to encourage Mark to make a spectacle of himself in and out of the classroom.
Along with most of the pupils in the class, Joe quickly learns that there is something not right about Mark. He, along with several others, encourage Mark to do and say silly things in the class thus getting him and sometimes others into trouble. Of course, Joe thinks all of this is very funny. It is Joe who seizes upon Mark’s fertile imagination like when Mark tells an amusing story about how he killed the Sandman, (an intended joke that backfired because others conveniently decided that he was being serious) he gets Mark to tell many others about it for his own amusement. Then after that, Joe makes great sport in asking Mark who his victim is that night.
Now some might ask why Mark went along with this and refused to allow himself to be made a spectacle of. The answer is quite simple and I have highlighted this in other posts. Although we don’t know it at the time, Mark has Asperger’s Syndrome and DAMP and like many who have similar conditions, has difficulty with social cues. Mark naively believes that doing such things are going to win him friends. Obviously, it doesn’t and the Joe and others just abuse him for their own amusement. Joe, personally, leads the charge further by getting Mark to say horrible things to the ‘ugly’ girl in the class on the grounds that if he doesn’t, he must like her. Not wanting people to think that, he goes along with it and does say things to the poor girl.
It is on the already mentioned page where Joe’s bullying of Mark goes from simple teasing and manipulation to more aggressive forms. The main instance is at a school basketball game where Joe punches Mark in the side and threatens other violence on him when he celebrates his school team making a basket. It is clear that he is only doing this to bully Mark and any protest from Mark or threats of telling someone only results in more violence or threats of it against him. When Mark finally decides he’s had enough and leaves, Joe brags to all about how he made Mark leave the game.
There is little more bullying from Joe after that. One reason is that they are in different classes for seventh grade. There is an instance when another boy threatens Mark he’s going to ram his glasses down his throat, Joe hears it and says “Stick’em up his nose instead.” Joe’s direct bullying against Mark might have subsided in seventh grade but his bullying in sixth grade was enough for Mark to list him as a target and why, when Mark finally gets his revenge, he makes no hesitation in finishing Joe off after he’s wounded.
Joe Gerberwitz was based on a real life person named Joe Gurwicz, who in sixth grade, made my life hell for much of that year. He did take advantage of my lack of social skills and my fertile imagination and he did threaten me with violence during a school basketball game and boasted how he made me leave after. There were a couple of other instances where he bullied me that I didn’t include in the book either. Like with the other bullies and future ones as well, the branch of forgiveness is ready should any acknowledge their wrongs and show true regret.
Next post: Mike Sigfried
To buy He Was Weird, go to: http://www.amazon.co.uk/He-Was-Weird-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1909740942/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436277892&sr=1-1&keywords=he+was+weird