This short story by Mike Feder, is about his own life as a discouraged teen in the 70’s society. When Mike was a young boy he was in a constant state of teenage depression, and one of the major reasons why, was his mother’s both mental and physical illness. This sickness of hers, made him sick as well, and it didn’t become any easier when his mother constantly reminded him, that he wasn’t wanted and that she wished she had never had children (p.62). This was just one of the many obstacles, that Mike had to face during his teenage years. Especially this factor is very clear to see in the story, since the narrator Mike, describes himself as a boy who was “possessed of great many psychosomatic complaints” (p. 62)
We know in forehand that this is a true story, but when a narrator is writing about himself, it is very hard to determine if he is reliable or not, and to be honest I do not want to draw any conclusions since there could be solid argumentations for both parts. This story could easily be an exaggerated version of a childhood memory, but could also be an actual event. Some elements could indicate, that we have an unreliable author as for instance the long gab between the year he wrote the story and his age in the story, which we know by looking at the many passages of the story which reveals it as: “When I was a kid” or “When I was about fifteen” (both on p. 62)
As a little wimp boy, Mike had a lot of fears, but on the top of the list was the long and adventurous trip to his allergist in Manhattan. He lived at the edge of the city, which meant, that there was a long way to his destination. The trip held a lot of terrors for Mike and he had “a department full of fears to play with” (p. 63). First of all he was quit afraid due to the violence in the train, but also other things as the powerful machines and the darkness of the underground frightened him.
The funny thing is; as much as he hated the whole experience, he felt this kind of crazy excitement as soon as the train came rumbling and roaring into the station. Every single time he felt this adrenalin rush, which he love very much, and that made him forget about all his other fears. This could indicate that the theme in “Here’s Herbie” had something to do with the initiation of adulthood, since he is so passionate about this, that he forgets some of his childish anxieties. This is obviously just one of the themes, where the main theme is growing up which in this case also contains being different.
Mike liked to sit in the front of the train, because of two things, firstly because he felt “some sort of identification with the surge of power in the front” and then also because he could peek out of the front window. He wanted to stand up and look out of the window, but he could never seem to find any courage to do so. He speculated too much about what the others passengers might think of him, and the attention that position would draw. So he had to live with just glancing out of the window, from the corner of his eyes, every now and then. But this whole thing changed one day, because of one specific man named Herbie. Herbie was slump shouldered and had a nutty lopsided look on his face.
He looked funny with his dim eyes and big hairy ears, but seemed careless anyways. This man just walked to the centre and started shouting: “Here’s Herbie! Here’s Herbie!” with absolutely no care in the world, and it was this kind of confidence Mike wanted to possess. Herbie then walked straight up to the front window of the train, with a plastic steering wheel and started “steering” the train, as if it was nothing. The one thing that Mike thought about doing every single time, Herbie did so abruptly. So despite Herbie’s shaggy appearance he actually achieved that one dream, that the narrator was embarrassed to fulfill.
I think this was the point where Mike realized that he could never reach any of his own goals if he kept being afraid of what others might think of him. Experiencing Herbie just shouting into the void and pursuing his dream really got to him and changed him. (p. 67) This is a very simple goal, and is nowhere near something impossible, but no matter what the dream is or how big or small it is, the same rules apply. Nothing should stop you from pursuing your dreams, even if it’s just to look out of a train-window. This is why the message of this short story is so simple, yet so deep. It really applies to so many different occasions and almost everyone can relate to it.
No matter if you want to be a president, or an artist or if your biggest dream is to try an awesome rollercoaster or climb Mount Everest, I really believe that nothing should keep you from doing what you want. Because at last Mike was so inspired by this odd man Herbie that he decided to look out window, without thinking about the other passengers, and this really changed him. He might have gotten some pitiful stares or judgemental comments, but this was the first time in his life that he felt he was in command of it. So a lesson we can learn from this short story could be: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Courtney from Study Moose
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