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The Disorderly March XVI

February 14, 2011

I forgot to close out my thought on Jean Hanff Korelitz’s Admission, so SPOILERS AHEAD if you haven’t read it and intend to.

I was most interested in what she was going to do with the subplot involving Jeremiah, a brilliant young man who struck out on the Orderly March through his first three years of high school.  After years of reading on his own, bored by his teachers and fellow students, he finally “got organized” when he transferred to an alternative school in his senior year.  Our narrator, Portia, discovers him there on her trawl through east coast high schools as a Princeton admissions officer, and encourages him to apply there.

In a melodramatic twist, Jeremiah turns out to be her son, given up for adoption, and suddenly her interest in getting him into Princeton becomes more personal.  She goes to war against another counselor, none of whose selections in the admissions officer meetings surprise her – Orderly Marchers all – and who doesn’t think Jeremiah is Princeton Material.  When Portia loses the battle, she forsakes her career by cheating to get him in – substituting his “no” letter with a “yes” letter to another student whom she knows is going to Yale anyway.  She’s caught and loses her job, but the school doesn’t want a scandal, and since Jeremiah has already received his “yes” letter, he’s in. 

It’s a somewhat demoralizing denouement.  Korelitz is basically saying, yes, it’s absurd that parents literally freak out when Little Ashley or Tyler submits a fourth grade science project that doesn’t advance the field (a conversation she actually overheard in a locker room) and will therefore never get into the Ivy League, and yet, it’s also true that only a lifetime without a single deviation from the O.M. will get you into the best schools. 

What will become of Jeremiah in Princeton?  Will he be able to “do the work” and succeed, or will his tendency to ignore “boring” subjects and teachers be his downfall?  Korelitz closes her story with his admission, so there’s no telling. 

 

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