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Butterflies are free



Butterflies are free


The well-done book 'Butterflies are free' is written by Leonard Gershe and has become a success because it is an ideal blend of humours and serious elements. Leonard Gershe has already worked on various musicals in Hollywood that make him very happy because the theatre was always his first love. As he explained it: 'I prefer working in the theatre to any other medium.'

As Leonard Gershe related in one of his rare newspaper interviews, the idea for ´Butterflies´ came to him one morning when he heard a young, blind law student speaking on the radio about how he had been mistakenly called up by the army and classified 1-A, that is, fit for active duty. He was very good-humoured about the situation, funny even, saying that his real handicap was the way people treated him because he was blind, and how he wishes the world understand that he was no different from anyone else, except that he couldn't see. Leonard Gershe felt that this was a character worth writing about.




The whole title 'Butterflies are free' comes from a literary quotation which is a favourite of both the main characters, Don and Jill: 'I only asked to be free. Mankind will surely not deny to Harold Skimpole what it concedes to the butterflies.' Jill thought this came from Mark Twain but Don knows it to be from Charles Dickens. This seems to be not that important but actually it is. Despite Don's physical handicap- he was born blind- he knows not only the correct author, but in which of his many books it appears.

I, for my part, was really enthusiastic about the various characters because they are presented in an interesting way due to the psychological background.


The plot and the psychological aspects

The story takes place in an apartment in New York where Don and Jill were living. Don was born blind and his mother, Mrs. Baker, gave him protection all his life. She wrote some books such as 'Little Donny Dark'.


(page 14) Don: 'Donny is twelve  years old and was born blind like me only it's no handicap to Little Donny Dark. He can drive cars and fly planes, ´cause, you see, his other faculties are so highly developed that he can hear a bank being robbed a mile away.'


Don hates to be called Donny because he doesn't like any sort of compassion. His mother can't believe that he could make it on his own and that there is no need to treat him otherwise.

Don is very tidy and well-educated. A year ago he met Linda Fletcher- his first real friend and possibly his big crush. She gave him something nobody ever thought to give him - self-confidence. In spite of that he lacks friends who show him the beauty of life regardless of his blindness. Jill feels sorry for him and suggests to open the door between their apartments.

Don Baker has a love of playing the guitar and writing songs. Jill embodies exactly the meaning of Don's song.


(page 16) Don: 'On that velvet morning

As our love was forming

I said you couldn't hurt me

As you left without warning.

I said 'Butterflies are free',

And so are we.'


Jill was married once, when she was sixteen- for actually six days. I suppose her behaviour depends on her education; I mean she just finished High-school and was married with sixteen. She is unfamiliar with the real life, she acts as if she doesn't feel responsible for anything.

First it seemed to me that Jill has her own imagination of life, which means that she personifies a childish, vivid girl who needs the thrill. But I think I can understand her way of thinking. The sloppy and divorced girl is looking for adventures that make her feel being in a sort of dreamworld where she could live however she wants; where she exists as a free human being without any troubles.


(page 17) Don: 'When were you a hippie?'

Jill: 'I guess it was after my marriage. I used to hang around Sunset Strip and smoke pot and say things like 'Down with the fuzz' and 'Don't trust anyone over thirty'. The whole bit. I just did it because everybody was doing it. Then I stopped because everybody was doing it. I felt I was loosing my individuality- whatever that is. The main thing, of course, was to protest against my mother, but it didn't work. I mean I walked in one day with my hair long and stringy wearing far - out clothes and beats and sandals she loved it! So I went the other way  and joined the Young Republican for Ronald Regan. Another mistake'




Eventually I realized that Jill can't be satisfied with herself and the way she is living. I'll give some examples which support my argument:

She claims to be a good and happy actress but in reality she has never accomplished what she really was dreaming of. With regard to Jill's marriage it's obvious that she was scared that somebody gets hurt and that- in this case- a man wouldn't accept her personality.

But in spite of that she is a likeable and above all a sensitive person who is afraid of loosing her independence and all that goes along.

For instance as she is wearing a wig. By touching Don recognizes the wig. Jill claims that she is doing this because it's fun. But in my point of view the situation shows that her heart is filled  with unhappiness. Another example is her imagination of funeral which is described as a party or something.


(page 17) Jill: 'Oh, yes, lots of butterflies. And I want music going all the time. I want the Rolling Stones to sing and the Vienna Boy's Choir.'


In fact Jill hasn't much of self- esteem!

Don and Jill become friends in a short time but Jill isn't exactly the girl Mrs. Baker dreams of for her son and therefore she wants her to leave.

As a matter of fact Mrs. Baker has done faults as often as Jill did. She has never noticed Don's love of music and that he hates to be called Donny.

Because of Jill's fear that Don gets hurt she leaves. She can't stand this responsibility and intends to move in with Ralph.

Don feels sorry for himself and decides to go home with his mother. But Mrs. Baker changed her way of thinking. She wants him to be man enough to handle the situation himself.


(page 26) Don: 'Oh, Christ, Mom, once and for all get it into your head- I am not Little Donny Dark! I am discouraged! I am defeated! It's over!

Mrs. Baker: ' I didn't  write those stories hoping for a Pulitzer Prize in literature. I wrote them because I found a way to help you. Whenever you felt discouraged or defeated, I told you a Little Donny Dark story and you tried a little harder and you did a little better. Shall I make one up now- or are you man enough to handle this situation yourself?'


If you think about all things I've mentioned you will see that the main- characters have a lot in common.

Don is the calm, confident and desperate one; Jill the nervous, unconfident and scared one. Don needs someone who helps him to enjoy life. But that person shouldn't be his mother. She always gave him help and protection but never a feeling of happiness. He needs affection of a woman who treats him like a human being and not like a retarded baby.

In my opinion these characters are made for each other. If they stick together Don will experience the real fun of life and Jill will meet the beauty of love which will change her mind.

Finally, Jill admits feelings- probably the first time in her life. She stays with Don and I'm sure that this is the only way for both to be saved.

I was very affected by the book because most teenagers- me too- behave like ´Butterflies´ until they have found the right way of thinking and living. 










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