Essay on Straight Man by Richard Russo and Tenure by Mike Million

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William Henry "Hank" Devereaux Jr. and Charlie Thurber are two men lost in the realm of college departmental politics in similar settings. The main character in Straight Man, a novel by Richard Russo, William Henry "Hank" Devereaux Jr., the son of an English professor and critic, wrote a novel, Off the Road, early in his career. However, he has produced nothing since. Hank likes to believe that he lives life by Occam’s razor, despite the complexities that continue to plague him. He is the reluctant chair of a small town college in Pennsylvania, who is facing rumors of cut- backs and layoffs, causing distrust and back-stabbing amongst his fellow professors. Charlie Thurber is the protagonist of Tenure, a film by Mike Million, starring Luke Wilson, Gretchen Mol and David Koechner. He is an English professor at a small town college who needs to publish something to have a shot at tenure. Despite the fact that the college English department has hired an Ivy League professor on tenure tracks. His father is a retired professor who currently lives in an assisted living facility and is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It is never stated where the fictitious Grey College is, but it was filmed using colleges in Pennsylvania.
Hank and Charlie share some very close similarities. Both are college English professors in small town colleges. They both are mired in interpersonal struggles of fellow staff members in and out of their departments. They both have fathers that are celebrated college professors that are now at a stage of declining health, which they have estranged emotions about. They both have hit a professional roadblock of sorts. Hank has not written anything since his first novel, and Charlie cannot get anything publi...

... middle of paper ... is compounded by both individuals’ personal struggles. Each man seems to overcome the struggles of his department, but barely. They both also overcome by doing the opposite of what is expected and going against the flow of what others expect of them. Both Hank and Charlie end each of their stories with a new vantage on their lives. Both stories are also able to focus on the absurdities of everyday life and the struggle to find peace for oneself outside the fervor of office politics and familial unrest. The translatability, of both protagonists, to every one of us leaves you rooting for them and wishing them the best at the end.


Million, Mike, Dir. Tenure. Perf. Luke Wilson. Scion Films: 2009, Film.

Russo, R. (1998). Straight man. Vintage.

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Straight Man, by Richard Russo and Tenure, by Mike Million Essay - William Henry "Hank" Devereaux Jr. and Charlie Thurber are two men lost in the realm of college departmental politics. The main character in Straight Man, a novel by Richard Russo, William Henry "Hank" Devereaux Jr., the son of an English professor and critic, who wrote a novel, Off the Road, early in his career, but he has produced nothing since. Hank likes to believe that he lives life by Occam’s razor, despite the complexities that continue to beleaguer him. He is the reluctant Interim chair of a small town college in Pennsylvania, who is facing a mutiny of his staff in the face of rumors of cut- backs and layoffs....   [tags: Hank and Charlie Overview] 1128 words
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