Nothing But The Truth Literary Essay Topics

Nothing but the Truth Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on Nothing but the Truth by Avi and Edward Irving Wortis.

At the beginning of the book, Philip Malloy is obsessed with making it on his school’s track team. He wants to impress his father and also improve his chances of going to college. He likes most of his classes, math best of all, but despises Miss Narwin’s English class. Phil does not see the point in reading the classic book, The Call of the Wild, and butts heads with Miss Narwin every step of the way. After a sarcastic answer on an exam, Phil receives a “D” as his term grade for English – a grade that prevents him from trying out for the track team. Phil immediately blames Miss Narwin for his bad luck and is angry when he learns she will also be his homeroom teacher for the spring term.

Miss Narwin is facing her own challenges as the story begins. As she desperately tries to get a grasp on contemporary teaching, she bemoans the fact that her students do not appreciate, or even care about, literature the way students in the past have. She requests funding from the school district to attend a summer course to improve her student interaction. When she is denied the funding, Miss Narwin becomes discouraged and angry at the lack of concern the administration shows. Though Phil Malloy does not take her course seriously, Miss Narwin believes Phil has potential and hopes she can break through his tough wall and help him succeed.

The morning announcements are always broadcast through the wall speakers during homeroom at Harrison High School. The first day Phil is in Miss Narwin’s homeroom, he hums along to the playing of the national anthem over the intercom. Miss Narwin asks him to stop. Phil believes his action is no big deal, but Miss Narwin cites a school memo asking students to stand in a respectful silence during the national anthem as her reason for asking him to be quiet. The first time Phil stops reluctantly. After telling his parents about the incident, and being told by his father he should stand up for his rights, Phil continues to hum along to the national anthem in homeroom. Miss Narwin throws him out once. When she throws him out a second time, the assistant principal threatens Phil with suspension. When Phil refuses to apologize to Miss Narwin, he is suspended for being sent to the principal’s office twice in the same week for the same offense. Miss Narwin disagrees with Phil’s suspension, but the assistant principal insists that “a rule is a rule.”

Phil’s mother is upset that he acted up and got suspended, but Phil’s father blames Miss Narwin and is outraged his son was suspended for being patriotic. Phil, and his father Ben, go over to tell their neighbor the story. Ted Griffen, who used to chase Phil off his lawn, is running for the school board and Ben believes he should know what happened to Phil. A reporter is at Ted’s house doing an interview for the school board elections and she ends up interviewing Phil and Ben Malloy about his suspension. She writes an article for the local newspaper presenting a one-sided view of Phil’s suspension and also paints the incident to be about squelching patriotic freedom, not a discipline issue. The people of Harrison Township are outraged, stoked by Ted Griffen who is making the rounds using the incident as leverage to win his school board election campaign.

A national wire service picks up the local story and condenses it to one paragraph, declaring Phil to be suspended for being patriotic and placing the blame solely on Miss Narwin. Newspapers around the country begin calling Harrison High School and telegrams and letters begin arriving, asking for Miss Narwin’s resignation. The school board and administration, feeling pressure because of the upcoming school budget election, begin to twist the truth of the incident and school policy to save face. As a result, Miss Narwin becomes the scapegoat and is asked to take a leave of absence. Phil is overwhelmed by all of the attention he receives as a result of the national coverage, and becomes stressed at the teasing by, and disapproval of, his peers. When Phil realizes he will not be able to improve his grade in Miss Narwin’s class or join the track team, he tells his parents he wants to switch schools.

At the end of the book, Miss Narwin makes the decision to resign, the school district budget is defeated, and Ted Griffen is elected to the school board. Phil leaves Harrison High School to attend Washington Academy, a private school with no track team. In the final lines of the book, Phil admits he does not even know the words to the national anthem.

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Nothing but the Truth


     Philip Malloy is a high school student. He is in the ninth grade at Harrison High School in New Hampshire. The story begins when Philip keeps humming the Star-Spangled Banner everyday in his homeroom class during the morning news and announcements. Philip is in Mr. Lunser’s homeroom class. The faculty rule is that everyone is to be silent and stand up respectfully during the playing of the national anthem. Teachers and other students thought it was annoying and started getting tired of Philip’s humming.

     Philip enjoys running and looks forward to trying out for his school's track team. His middle school coach had told the coach at the high school that Philip was a really good runner. His hopes are crushed when he learns that he cannot try out for the team because he has a 'D' in English.

Philip is not fond of his English teacher, Miss Margaret Narwin. He does not like her at all and thinks she is the meanest and dumbest teacher in the world. She always gets on his nerves. She wrote a letter to her sister, Anita, and told her that she liked Philip. She said he was intelligent and that he had potential, but he irritated her because he did not have the desire to learn. Philip studied for his winter term exams but did not bother to study for his English
exam.

     For the spring term, the faculty made changes and Philip got assigned to Miss Narwin’s homeroom class. Things got worse when Philip was assigned to her homeroom as if being in her English class wasn’t bad enough. When Philip got back to school he found out he was assigned to counseling. Philip was furious and still wanted to get out of Miss Narwin’s English class.

     Miss Narwin is always sending Philip to the principal’s office for creating disturbances. Philip makes jokes and fails Miss Narwin’s tests on purpose. He couldn’t pass her class and she couldn’t take a joke. Philip keeps a diary of everything that happens and of everything that goes on in his head.

     Philip gets into big trouble. Miss Narwin sends him to the vice-principal’s office for humming the national anthem. He gets suspended for a week. It is the nature of the disturbance, humming during the Star Spangled Banner that creates a huge controversy. A chain reaction of events turns the conflict into a patriotic issue.

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     Philip’s father, Mr. Malloy, thought Philip needed a lot of support so he could get his justice. He thinks that his son should be allowed to hum and should not have gotten suspended for a week. Mr. Malloy had a friend that worked for the newspaper. He told him the story about Philip and it was all over the radio and television. Most people thought Philip was crazy, but some believed in him. His friend Allison Doresett believed in him. They were in Miss Narwin’s homeroom and English class together.

     Philip’s father and his mother were mad, but they found a way to solve all of Phillip’s patriotic problems. Philip was placed in another school. On his first day at the new school they played the Star-Spangled Banner. Philip didn’t sing or hum. He was crying. When the teacher asked why he was crying, he said he didn’t know the words.      




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