The Realities of Being an Adult With a Job Through Beverly Cleary’s Mr. Quimby
Perhaps a little belated for Father’s Day, but Stephanie Lucianovic has a really wonderful essay about rereading Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books, and getting a new perspective on the theme of being a parent and adult with a job through the character of Mr. Quimby, Ramona’s father:
What we learn in the Ramona books is that Mr. Quimby was once an art major, but when Mrs. Quimby got pregnant with Beezus, he dropped out of school and got a job. We can acknowledge that some of the Ramona books were a product of their time (Cleary wrote them between 1955–1999) when getting married while in college was not as mind-boggling as it might be today, yet also still recognize that having a baby at any stage of life forces a family to completely change their life around in order to accommodate it. Dropping out of college and not finishing his art degree is the first data point in Mr. Quimby’s realistic if depressing career trajectory.
Bit by bit we find out about all the jobs Mr. Quimby has held. In Beezus and Ramona, he has an unnamed position at Pacific Gas & Electric, and in Ramona and Her Father he loses his job in an office of a small moving and storage company, and everything appears to go downhill from there. For what feels like a painfully extended time (all of Ramona and Her Father), Mr. Quimby is standing in line at unemployment, waiting by the phone for interviews and job offers, and smoking. By the close of Ramona and Her Father, Mr. Quimby has finally secured a job as a checker at a grocery store chain with management potential. In other books, we’ll learn how much he hates his checker job — once again a concept which may not mean much to the kids for whom the books were written but one which resonates far too loudly for adults — and how he’ll leave that checker job to go back to art school and then get a teaching certificate while also working part-time at another hated job in a frozen foods warehouse.
Mr. Quimby should have studied STEM. Okay, no, but seriously, I sort of want to read all of the books I read as a kid and look at them through the lens of the parents.