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The Blue & Gray Press | November 19, 2017

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Wolfe's College "I am" Bares All

BY KAITLIN MAYHEW
Poor Charlotte, the naïve girl from Sparta, N.C., is thrown into a world of vulgarity and candid hierarchy, where humiliation is the ultimate depravity, and status is the dream.

“I Am Charlotte Simmons” by Tom Wolfe is an investigative and unsettling novel about college scandal and the loss of innocence.
One aspect that makes this story especially tragic, if not slightly unbelievable is the complete innocence of high school scholar Charlotte Simmons as she enters freshman year at fictional Dupont University.

Some young people, like those born in rural areas, can be said to be sheltered, and Charlotte,who  clearly never tuned into MTV, read a Cosmopolitan magazine, sampled alcohol, or wore high heels, is thrown into a full blown party scene full of oversexed college students.

The novel eloquently revolves around three sets of scandals all occurring at Dupont University, a school Wolfe modeled after prestigious Ivy Leagues.

The scandals involve Hoyt the Fraternity hot shot, Jojo Johansson the basketball star, Adam Gellin the intelligent reporter, and Charlotte herself.

As Charlotte gains the ever-revered status as the girlfriend of a star athlete, she realizes how her priorities have changed. Academic excellence is no longer her ultimate goal, it was replaced by the undeniable need to not only be accepted but feel special. The Sparta  Simmons is gone forever.

Although this novel was undoubtedly thoroughly researched, and eloquently written, I do somewhat question its complete accuracy. The story, though heart wrenching and provocative noticeably omits integral aspects that cannot be absent from such a prestigious university. There were no medical students pulling all nighters in the library, no frighteningly assertive business majors competing for the top slots, no pre-law students working tirelessly on debate teams, no newspaper editors coordinating what is most likely a daily campus paper.

It is believable that some standards at any school could be falling, or that there are some less than admirable lengths taken to keep top athletes in classes. But it is completely irrational to assert that this is the only option for a college hopeful.

Wolfe provides an excellent and eye opening read in “I Am Charlotte Simmons” that serves to me more as a warning than an informant of the inevitable. In this sense I think it’s something every girl, and boy for that matter, should read before becoming a college freshman.