Lesson Plan: Mad Toy Character Analysis

Grade and Subject: 12th grade English

Objectives: Do a character analysis on Silvio, the lead character to The Mad Toy. Explain how he changes throughout the novel and the motives to his actions.

Opening: Instruct the students on the history of Argentina at the time of the novel (1926) and discuss various political issues at the time. Portray how the rich took advantage of the poor, the working conditions for the poor, and crime rates.

Direct Instruction: Explain to the class what a character analysis is. Explain that students must carefully critique the character from the beginning, in the middle, and at the very end of the story. Explain how the character is changing (if they do change), and why this change is occurring. Instruct that the students are to observe details about the character; their personality traits, their life goals, their ambition, family life, etc.

Guided Practice: Do a short, contained character analysis on a secondary character. Use all of the criteria explained above, and show how this relates to Silvio’s progression throughout the novel. Does this character help or hurt Silvio? What influences does that character have?

Example of a character to analyze: Enrique. Explore his influence on Silvio at the beginning of the novel and show how he helped sway Silvio into a life of crime.

Assessment: The students will begin their character analysis of Silvio. They will use the guidelines above, plus several that they will come up with themselves. Due to how much Silvio changes throughout the novel and the events that he experiences, the students should be able to gather at least a page worth of information for this character analysis.

Closing: allow the students to talk about what new thing they learned about Silvio. Allow them to discuss how their thoughts on the novel and the characters changed, and what new ideas they came up with when analyzing his character.

The Mad Toy by Roberto Arlt

The Mad Toy is a novel by Roberto Arlt, first published in Argentina in 1926. The novel follows a young man by the name of Silvio through four distinct stages in his life, separated into sections. The sections are titled 1.) Band of Thieves, 2.) Work and Days, 3.) Mad Toy, 4.) Judas Iscariot. These four sections of the novel also serve as the four most developing points of Silvio’s life. Silvio is a troubled youth and part of the lower class who is unhappy with his situation and his lack of identity. He forms a gang referred to as “The Club” with his two friends Enrique and Lucio. The gang begins to commit petty crimes at first, with the main goal of robbing from the rich and powerful of Argentina that the group is so envious of due to their own low status in Argentinian society. However, after committing their first few act of thievery, they begin to escalate their crimes. The gang requires each other to carry loaded handguns with them at all times, along with other tools for robbery such as lock picks and small explosives to destroy locks. The gang requires that the bullets in their handguns be poisoned with a substance that will ensure a gunshot victim were to die, regardless of the area they are hit. They form rules for testing the potency of this poison, such as “separating a dog from it’s tail in one shot. The dog must die within ten minutes” (Arlt pg. 14). The gang continues to escalate their criminal behavior, discussing what would happen if they were caught. They threaten to “show no mercy” and “terrorize the cops, blow them away” (Arlt pg. 16). They also mention that they will send the judges bombs in the mail in order to ensure their reign of terror can continue. Silvio himself mentions that if he were ever caught, he would never confess, and that the police officers would have to kill him before he ever even thought of confessing. The gang is more talk than action, however, as when they are nearly caught in the act of a robbery, they decide to disband. The novel is narrated in the first person by Silvio, and we are granted an inside look at his thoughts. The second the real idea of becoming captured by the police is present, we see the paranoia and fear that he feels. This helps to show his age and how that although he is unhappy with his lack of power in society and talks about evil things such as blowing up the judges houses and killing police with poisoned bullets, he is still just a kid that is attempting to change his circumstance in society and is not as cold blooded as he portrays himself to be.

After the disbanding of his gang, Silvio attempts to change his place in society through honest and legal ways by finding work and eventually attending school, both of which fail. He goes back to his criminal ways during these two failed attempts, and realizes just how difficult it will be for him to move up the socioeconomic ladder and how society is built around keeping him at his state of poverty. Eventually, Silvio comes to a crossroads and has to decide whether or not to start back up as a criminal who robs from people to obtain their wealth. Silvio’s character development and realization of how unfair the world can be play a large part in the climax of the novel as Silvio makes his decision.

The Mad Toy does a great job of showing just how unfair society can be and how the burden of being low on the socioeconomic ladder can lead to adolescents finding their way into crime. Robbing houses is Silvio’s way of “getting back” at the rich, who he blames for his situation. However, Silvio forms his gang of thieves also as a way of finding a sense of community in a world where the rich as cruel and take advantage of the lack of resources that those who live in poverty have. Silvio and his gang feel that they have power in numbers to fight the oppression that they receive, even if they are more talk than they are action. Silvio’s attempts to get out of his life of crime are successful at first, however, due to his place in society, he is always drawn back to it because he sees this as the only fair and successful way of climbing the social ladder and staking his place in society. Roberto Arlt successfully uses the first person narrative to give an inside glimpse into the mind of an adolescent who is constantly at a crossroads of honest, hard work and irredeemable criminal acts.


Works Cited

Arlt, Roberto. Mad Toy. Duke University Press, 2002.

“Mad Toy.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Jan. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mad_Toy.

North Korean Censorship of Literature and How it Affects Children

In Sam Webb’s article North Koreans caught with foreign films, books, and TV face 10 years in prison as tyrant regime ramps up censorship, Webb talks about the consequences of North Koreans that are in possession of media and literature that has not been approved by the tyrant North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. It is very commonly known that North Korea is one of the least free and most censored nations in the world, and ramping up the punishments for possessing literature that their leader does not approve of does not come as a surprise to any. However, the group that suffers the most from this censorship are the adolescents and young adults who could learn from this literature.

We have discussed in this class how important it is for young adults to have access to literature that represents them, and portrays similar issues they face that can be related to. Kim Jong-un clearly wants these adolescents to think that the issues they face are much less harsh than the issues that plague the rest of the world. Censoring how other countries live and and the freedoms that they are granted shows how much control this tyrant wants over his people. Brainwashing starts in childhood, therefore, forbidding adolescents to access media and literature that show them how different life could be also makes them think that this is the best life could be, starving, under constant scrutiny, and worshipping a ruler as if he is a god. By forbidding adolescents to access other types of literature, Kim Jong-un is making sure that only ideas that he deems important and relevant are portrayed to the youth, resulting in these adolescents as all thinking the same, without any hope or aspiration for change. Until adolescents are able to access literature that shows them exactly how their life could be in a different country, resistance to the regime will be lacking and Kim Jong-un’s unchallenged rule will continue to go unchecked.

Works Cited

Webb, Sam. “North Koreans Caught with Foreign Films and Books Face 10 YEARS in Prison Camp.” The Sun, The Sun, 2 Apr. 2017, www.thesun.co.uk/news/3235552/north-koreans-caught-with-foreign-films-books-and-tv-face-10-years-in-prison-camp-as-tyrant-regime-ramps-up-censorship/.