Jumpstart the World Character Analysis of Molly

Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde

On the assignment I turned into class, this progress statement was included at the end of the character analysis. For this post I have moved it to the beginning to show a little bit into my process for this writing assignment.
I took on this assignment a little differently then I have similar assignments in the past. Normally I don’t go through the draft process, but I really wanted to get my points across in a certain way this time. I wrote my introduction first, straight into word, but for the body paragraphs and conclusion, I first wrote in my notebook and then typed the paper from my notes. Every time I struggled with a sentence, I played with it in my notebook until I got it right. There was something special about this book that made me want to be better and I think it worked.

Molly the Mentor

At first glance Molly may not seem like a very important character in Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book Jumpstart the World but, upon further inspection she shows herself to be a beacon for the protagonist, Elle. In Jumpstart Elle is a young woman on the cusp of 16 who has been forced to move into a new apartment because her mother wants to live alone with her boyfriend. Molly’s boyfriend, Frank, befriends Elle giving her someone to talk to who will really listen for what seems like the first time in her life. Molly only wants what is best for her love and when Elle starts acting distant after learning that Frank is transgender, Molly is upset. It had been bad enough that Elle had a crush on Frank before she knew, but now Elle is hurting Frank without even realizing it. Elle comes back around when Frank is involved in an accident, but Molly is not quite ready to forgive. Molly always shows Elle kindness and when it is taken away Elle realizes her mistake and works to earn Molly’s forgiveness. Without seeing it Elle does most of her learning and growing as a person by following Molly’s example. Molly is Elle’s nearly silent guide throughout the novel, opening Elle’s eyes to the beauty in herself, the wonders of photography and the freedom in forgiveness.
Elle complains to Frank about not being able to fit in at school and blames it on her perceived lack of beauty. Here Molly jumps into her role as mentor and tells Elle that she is beautiful in such a way that Elle actually takes notice, “She said it like she really meant it. Like she believed it. But she was still wrong,” (pg. 53). Elle can not see herself the same way that Molly does. The only way that Elle sees herself at this time is through the superficial gaze of her mother and the normal kids at school. Only Molly can break through the kind of barriers Elle has set up around herself because Elle seldom takes notice of Molly. The best way for Molly to reach Elle is by showing her, and Molly knows that. After retrieving her camera equipment and taking photographs of Elle, it is in the darkroom that Molly’s light really shines. She instructs Elle, “Well, try to get your ideas to loosen up. Try to look at yourself the way you would look at somebody else. Imagine it’s your job to hire a model. Look at these photos and see if you would hire this girl,” (pg.54) Molly practically forces a new perspective on Elle. By giving Elle explicit instructions on how to look at the photographs, Molly proves to Elle that she can be beautiful.
Molly shows Elle her beauty through photography thus spurring a new passion in Elle for the craft. Just after Elle’s 16th birthday she gets a visit from her mother with presents in tow, boxes full of clothes Elle would never wear. Usually, Elle would just let the clothes, “…rot in a drawer,” (pg. 63). This time is different because Molly brought something out of Elle, a wish for something more. Elle makes a decision for herself, “I took it all back. I turned it all in for store credit, and then I bought a 35 mm camera, with two extra lenses –a close-up and a wide-angle– and a flash, and a tripod, and a light meter, and a book about photography. And I carried it all home,” (pg. 63). As Elle begins to use photography as a way of looking more closely at others, she also becomes able to look more closely at herself. This is all thanks to Molly’s readiness to share her view of Elle. Her reluctant inner monologue explains, “It was this sort of difficult, embarrassing truth that was right there for everybody to see: the fact that my interest in photography probably had its roots in admiring Molly just a little bit. Whether I wanted to admire her or not. Whether I wanted to admit it or not,” (pg. 66). It is obvious to everyone that Elle is following Molly’s example while remaining in love with Frank. Though she feels conflicted, she and the reader must concede that Molly is her guide. Without Molly’s help Elle would have never found her outlet in photography.
Molly teaches Elle many things through Jumpstart, but the most important lesson Elle learns is one of forgiveness. Elle may not have realized it, but she had been hurting Frank by not talking to him once she learned he is transgender. When she suddenly comes around after his accident Molly is angry, but she apologises to Elle anyway. Molly also accepts Elle’s help in looking after Frank at the hospital. Though this is an important making of amends, it isn’t until Elle sees Molly forgive Crazy Harry, that she truly begins to understand how freeing forgiveness can be. Molly explains to Elle, “I know I wouldn’t have said this when it first happened. I would’ve probably taken the guy apart with my bare hands. But, in a way, there’s really nothing to forgive. It was just sort of a freak accident. I mean, all he did was make a sudden noise,” [to which Elle responds] “So you forgive him,” [and Molly says] “Yeah. I guess,” (pg. 150). This apology is a revelation to Elle. She is a young woman who has had to learn a lot in a relatively short amount of time, but she takes in her lessons from Molly and puts them to use. Once Frank is back home Elle asks him, “Do I owe you an apology?”… [Frank responds] “No,” (pg.169). Without Molly having shown her the way, Elle may not have ever asked that question and she certainly would never have put effort into repairing the other relationships in her life.
Molly is the sort of role model that every 16 year old should have. She displays strength, kindness and wisdom in her actions. No matter how Molly feels for a moment, she can’t help but reach out her hands to those in need. She excitedly takes the time to show Elle that she is beautiful by utilizing her skill with photography. When Elle reveals her own interest in photography, Molly is all too happy to help her talent blossom. Though Molly herself struggles with forgiveness, she remains the best example for Elle by apologising to her and forgiving the man that caused Frank’s accident with her watching.  Molly did everything she could to be a good example for Elle to follow. Because of that, Elle was given the tools she needed to grow into an outstanding young adult.

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