About the Author
Morris Lurie was born in Melbourne in 1938. He is better known for his short stories though he has written some novels too. He has won several awards in Australia for fiction. The years spent away from Australia in voluntary exile form the subject matter of much of his writing.
The main character is a school boy whose “greatest ambition” is to be a comic strip artist. He was the only one in his class who wanted to be one. The story explores the uncertainties and trials of being an adolescent with unsupportive parents.
The main character, called Nu by his parents, is just thirteen but seems a lot more mature for his age. He appears a child only when he talks about trains and the fear he has of them. Otherwise, he is just an adolescent who worries about what clothes to wear to the all important interview. He talks about his father with barely concealed impatience. One cannot blame because the father can only talk of the cheque. Though very young, the young man had a clear idea what a comic should portray and what its philosophy should be. He copes manfully with the disappointment of the Boy Magazine winding up.
Themes (major and minor)
The main theme is the disappointments life brings to adolescents. Nu wants to be a comic strip artist more than anything else. He confides in his friend Michael Lazarus and not his parents. The parents are dysfunctional, trying to live their lives through their son’s. Like all adolescents, Nu is worried about what to wear to the interview than about his comic. Where the comic is concerned, he is on surer ground. He knows its worth.
The parents and Nu are definitely not on the same wavelength. The father thinks only of the money the son will earn and the mother basks in her son’s fame.
Nu is a thirteen year old who wants to be a comic strip artist. His friend suggests that he should get his strip published by the Boy magazine. Though Nu does not approve of the magazine, he decides to go ahead. He is called to an interview which gets cancelled once. When he goes to the office for the interview, he realizes that they the editor had not expected anyone so young. The comics are purchased for fifteen pounds. Nu creates a second set and sends it to the Boy Magazine but they come back with a regret note that informs Nu that the Boy Magazine is winding up publication.
Nu’s ambition is to be a comic strip artist. On the advice of his friend, he sends one set to the Boy Magazine. The editor calls him for an interview which excites Nu but he is also worried about clothes and such. His father is only concerned about the money he will make and the mother brags to her friends about her son’s cleverness. At the magazine office, he is offered fifteen pounds for his work. The comic strip is published so he makes another one and sends it to Boy Magazine. But it comes back as the magazine is winding up publication.
“My Greatest Ambition” probes the insecurities and inadequacies of adolescence. It is also about how condescendingly adults treat the ambitions and hopes of adolescents. When Nu declares he wants to be a comic strip artist, they think it is a passing fancy and say, “He’ll grow out of it”. Nu chooses to speak to his friend about his ambition as he wants to share it with someone non-judgmental.
Nu creates his second comic strip which is his life blood with great expectations but it comes back to him not rejected as being unfit but because the magazine itself id closing down. His father has much to say about this turn of events certainly none of it would have been of any consolation to Nu. His mother who has been basking in his fame among friends and family would suddenly have nothing to say.
Important vocabulary and expression
The adults remarked that Nu would grow out of the ambition of being a comic strip artist and that is precisely what happened but not in the way they intended. Instead of encouraging him along, they did not take him seriously. He was good at it; good enough for a magazine to publish it. If they had encouraged him, he would not have been so dejected that he gave it up altogether.
Literary devices used with examples
The whole story is in first person. It gives it an edge and rawness that would have been missing if it had been any other way. “My greatest ambition was to be a comic strip artist but I grew out of it”. Many of the statements are made with a tongue in cheek kind of humour -”My mother thought I was studying in there.