The Charleston Charm

Hour 1

Gentlemen, when asked about who was a big influence on your road to manhood, who comes to mind? Notice the word “who”. When talking about the ascension to manhood, most people think of a person or a certain event that made them a man. For Will McLean, the influence to his manhood was the city of Charleston.

Charleston influences Will’s ascension to manhood because of the city’s affect on his personal mood, how he grows to love the city after each summer, and what he learns from Abigail St. Croix.

The city of Charleston can lure you in like bait on a hook. Commerce St. Croix talks often about how the city owns him, how he can’t leave even though sometimes he wishes he could. For Will McLean, the city shapes him and becomes part of his life so much that as he returns after summer break, he finds his mood reflecting on the harsh weather of a Charleston September. “The drought seemed an appropriate symbol for how I felt after the suicide of Poteete. Or perhaps I only noticed weather then, when my spirit was dry and brittle” (209). Will feels as the weather does, “in terrible need of storm and change and deliverance.” After the suicide of one cadet the previous year, Will finds himself unable to be the sarcastic smart aleck he normally is. Spending time alone thinking is one of his new past times – he just wishes for closure. Charleston’s climate seemingly correlates with how Will is feeling, one of the city’s ways of reeling them in for good.

Cadets oftentimes find themselves cursing the Institute and the city of Charleston during their plebe year. The city houses the Institute, home of the horrid place putting them through all the torture that they endure. Some that get their own personal Taming may better know Charleston as Hell. But, if strong enough to survive, returning sophomores and upperclassmen alike see the skyline and love it. They see the white battlements and parapets of the Institute and no longer shudder. “It was 1966, the war in Vietnam was gradually escalating, and Charleston had never looked so beautiful, so untouchable, or so completely mine” (9). Will, like so many others, experiences the sights and smells of Charleston and feels a sense of security.

Will knows a lot about Charleston from his experiences at the Institute, but Abigail St. Croix teaches him the inner workings of how the city functioned as a whole. On Sundays, they walk through the streets in town and just take everything in. She tells him how to make Charleston his basis for comparison about anything for the future. “But what I loved most was the Saturdays that I spent with Abigail St. Croix” (254). She stops at the window of antique stores and tells him why each piece was in there and why she liked them. She explains the social structure, and why it will always be the way it is. This city is based on history, and the people in it aren’t about to change.

A person influences most men, more than likely his father, while ascending to that part of life known as manhood. For Will McLean, the influence to his manhood was the city of Charleston. The weather reflected his mood; he learned how to love the city more through Abigail St. Croix and he grew to love it more and more with each passing summer.

“The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different.” –Billy Joel