Shades of Simon Gray By: Joyce McDonald

Project by: Kara Mitchell & Evi Kousournas

Setting: The story of, Shades of Simon Gray takes place in the town of Bellhaven in the late 90's to early 2000's. This book contains another setting as well which is in 1798 in the same town as Bellhaven, but at this time, it is referred to as Havenhill.

Character Study—Devin McCafferty

Devin McCaffery is an interesting character in Shades of Simon Gray. She is a girl who is considered pretty with long, dark red hair. In the text, it says,”...she spotted Devin McCafferty heading toward her, her jacket unzipped and billowing in the wind, her head hatless, her red hair blowing every which way as she tried to keep her balance on platform boots that weren't made for snow”(83). This quote captures an example of direct characterization about how Devin has red hair. This direct characterization directly describes a physical characteristic of Devin, meaning that the author makes it perfectly clear for the reader that Devin has this trait.

Devin also goes through many changes as a character, for instance, in the beginning of the book, Devin believes that in order to secure a good future for herself, she has to go to a well known school. In order to do this, she had to joined “the project” to get exceptionally good grades and not only get accepted to ivy league schools, but get scholarships for them as well. In the text it says, “... When she got home, Devin found two thick envelopes in the mailbox, one from Cornell, her first choice, and another from Middlebury. She knew… she had been accepted to both”(52). Then, soon after in the text it says, “there was no way in hell her parents would ever be able to pay for her college education. She knew that, had always known it... The scholarships were to be part of ’the project‘. Now, with Simon in a coma, she wondered how they were ever going to pull off this last crucial part of the plan"(53).

Then, later in the story it says, “....she [Devin] would trade her future at Cornell, or any of the schools where she had been excepted under false pretenses, for the lives of Simon and her grandmother" (195). These are all examples of indirect characterization of Devin that show that at first, she was selfish, but later became selfless. In the first two quotes on pages 52 and 53, the author indirectly stated that Devin only cared about herself. They wrote about how she has gotten into the colleges she had wanted and was worried about how she would pay for them, when she should have been worried about Simon and the fact that his life was at stake. Through these quotations, she can be portrayed as a selfish character, even without the author directly telling the reader that she has this trait. Then in the last quote, by telling the reader that Devin is willing to trade her future at popular schools for the lives of people she cares about, the author is also using indirect characterization to tell the reader that Devin has now become selfless. The author never says word for word that Devin has acted selflessly and has changed, but it is inferred because of the author’s use of indirect characterization.

Devin is also a manipulative character in the story. In the beginning of the story Devin pushes Simon into joining “the project” because “the project” knows that Simon has feelings for Devin. For example when Devin asks Simon to dance with her at a party, in order to make Simon join “the project”, the text reads,”....Devin McCafferty laid her milky—white hand on his arm. By the end of the night he had agreed to help Kyle and the others with their "project'”(80). This quotation exemplifies how Devin had manipulated Simon into joining the “project” by using his love for her. That indirectly characterizes Devin as a manipulative character because nowhere in the text is it directly written that Devin is manipulative, but the reader is able to gather that from the textual clues.



Setting and Theme—Relating the setting of the story to the theme....

In Havenhill, 1798, Jessup Wildemere is considered a murderer. The townspeople truly must feel the pressure of fear the night that the Bellhaven vigilantes take matters into their own hands and carry out the execution of Jessup themselves. The vigilantes don't even give poor Jessup a fair trial before they hang him from the branches of the Liberty Tree in Havenhill. Although if he was in fact given his fair trial, these people would have seen that Jessup Wildemere was in fact an innocent man who was blindly blamed by his so called true love. Without him saying anything, the secret of his innocence has been buried with him, at the liberty tree. The secret of the vigilante’s wrong doing wantes to be released, and so the town of Havenhill, later known as Bellhaven is cursed. Much like the plagues of Egypt, frogs, bugs, disease, and many other things are sent to free the secret from the town as the Jewish people needed to be freed from Egypt. Because of the pressure of fear, the bad decision to execute Jessup is made, hiding his secret, and causing plagues on the town of Bellhaven.

Characters and Theme—Relating the characters in the story to the theme....

In the mystery novel, Shades of Simon Gray many characters are affected negatively by pressure. Devin McCafferty, a girl who has seven siblings and is pressured to join "the project". "The project" is a group which consists of Kyle, Danny and herself, all three of them cheat by having Simon hack into the school network to get the quizzes and tests before hand, to give to them. Devin's life at home is chaotic. For example she said, " I got tired of wiping jelly fingerprints off the TV screen"(87). This quote shows us that Devin's life is full of work and the only way she can escape it is to allow Kyle to become part of her life. He becomes her new boyfriend and a distraction from what is really going on in her life. Because he is her boyfriend, she allows him to pressure her into something that isn't necessarily right. Kyle pressures her to join "the project" so that she can use her manipulative skills to get Simon to become the replacement for Walter Tate, who was the geek who hacked into the school network before Simon. Kyle pressured Devin into having his way of thinking, which is that in order to have a good like, you have to be perfect, so you have to cheat.

The protagonist, Simon Gray is pressured by Danny, Kyle and Devin to join the project and he lets it happen because he loves Devin. Simon is manipulated by her. For example, " Devin McCafferty laid her milk-white hand on his arm. By the end of the night he had agreed to help Kyle and the others with their 'project'"(80). This shows us that Devin knows, if she touches Simon's arm she is be able to manipulate him. She is using his love for her as a weakness, to get him to join "the project." He is pressured by the three of them to hack into the school network and steal the quizzes and tests they will have, before they have them. Simon is especially manipulated by Devin's sweet voice and alluring smile to join "the project". For example Simon's every waking thought is about Devin, " Simon wondered what he would do if he could go back in time, change everything that had happened that year. And without a moments hesitation he knew he would do it all over again. He would do it for the same reason, the only reason, he'd done it the first time—for Devin"(81). In Simon's eyes, Devin is the only thing that truly matters, and for her, he will do anything.

Kyle Byrnes, the brains of "the project" is pressured by society to get into a well known college. All he wants is to insure that he gets into a good school. Because he has no confidence in himself, he believes that the only way he can be successful is by cheating his way to a good life. For example in the text it says, "'We can't leave everything to chance, ....'Meaning if Simon comes out of that coma, we can't just assume he won't talk. We should have a plan, in case things don't go our way"'(91). This shows us that Kyle is feeling pressured to keep "the project" a secret so that he can receive a good-looking education without his cheating getting in the way. Meaning Kyle doesn't want the secret of him cheating on all of his quizzes and tests to get out. All he wants is to get into a well known college so he can be accepted by society.

Courtney Gray, is the younger sibling to Simon. She is also a teen who is rebellious because she feels pressured by her father, to live up to the high expectations Simon has set. Courtney feels like her father is so disapproving of everything she does. Simon on the other hand is thought as nothing but perfect. Her father thinks that Simon is a, Dudley-do-Right. This is a cartoon character from the early 20th century, who could do no wrong. Like Dudley, Simon is also thought to make no mistakes. Courtney feels like she is under so much pressure because Simon is so good and she could never live up to the expectations her father has accumulated. This feeling she gets when she knows her father disapproves of her makes Courtney not think straight. Her good judgment is blown away. Without her conscience this makes Courtney do outrageous things such as smoking pot. "No one but Simon could know what it was like living with their father since their mother had died. It was like living with a human land mine—the slightest thing could set him off"(40-41). This quote tells us that Courtney is not happy living with her father, she just wants to be seen by him since Simon and her mother died. Courtney wants to be approved by her father or at least be seen or acknowledged as doing something right, but because she is never given this feeling from her father, she is pressured to be a rebellious daughter.

Plot and Theme—Relating the plot of the story to the theme....

From the start of the book, people begin to feel under pressure. Even from the first chapter, Simon Gray, is under pressure. For example Simon is under so much pressure that he feels really guilty about helping "the project" and crashed his car into the Liberty tree. In the text it says, "he was convinced she knew everything he had ever done and considered him beyond redemption. On other nights, when he was willing to cut himself a little slack, ...he preferred the shadowy form of disapproval, hovering beyond the edge of his yard, to nothing at all. ... a dark shadow seemed to rise out of the damp earth in front of the bronze plaque. ... He was so startled by shifting figure in front of him, he didn't realize he did notice, it was too late" (10-13). This quote is telling us that Simon's deceased mother is still in his conscience telling him what she approves and disapproves. He was pressured to drive out there near the Liberty Tree because everything in his life was too overwhelming. Then before Simon even knew what hit him there was a figure in the distance which distracted him and made him drive into the Liberty Tree. Simon was also pressured to join "the project". In the text it says, "'Rob Fisher's having a party Saturday night. You want to come with us? ... He didn't trust them for a second. And why should he? They were about to sucker him into taking over Walter's place." This quote shows us that Simon is pressured to go to Rob Fisher's party which will lead to Simon taking over Walter Tate's place. He does end up taking Walter's place because of Devin. She is at the party and pressured him into joining "the project" because she knows Simon has feeling for herself.

Simon wasn't the only character to be pressured into doing something bad, Jessup Wildemere was too. In the text when Hannah Dobbler, Jessup's true love, kills her father, the text reads,"'Hannah killed her father'....'I held her, there behind the barn while she cried.....Her father's blood is on me as well. As it should be. The crime belongs to us both. I am as guilty as she'"(208-209). This quote shows that Jessup is pressured by his guilt for being a part of the reason that Hannah killed her father. He is pressured into believing that he was a bad person and should be punished for the death of her father, but what the pressure of his guilt has made him see, is completely different from reality. In Jessup's mind, Hannah loves him and her father did not approve of this, causing Hannah to killed him so that she can be with Jessup. Jessup though that he was the reason that Hannah kills her father, and that made him guilty, so he should be punished as if he were the murderer. In reality, Jessup was completely innocent because Hannah never loved him to begin with. This is made clear to the reader when the text says,"The men had found him waiting here for Hannah and we're going to execute him with their own hands. And Simon was sure the reason they had come here in such short order was because Hannah Dobbler had told them exactly where to find Jessup"(216-217). Since Hannah had told the men where to find Jessup so that they could execute him, she clearly did not care about him or his life. This proves that there was no other reason but the pressure of Jessup's guilt, that allows him to let the men kill him for a crime he didn't commit. Under the pressure of guilt, Jessup commits the wrongdoing of letting the other men execute him.

Biblical Allusions

In Egypt during the ten plagues locusts suck the light of day out of everything and everyone in sight. Hardly anything could survive the day the locusts cursed the country of Egypt. In the book, Shades of Simon Gray, there is an outbreak of mosquitoes and like the locusts, they were sucking the life out of everyone. In Egypt, they were sent down by God because Pharaoh would not let his Jewish slaves be free. This was the eighth time that Pharaoh had denied the Jewish people freedom, even though they truly wanted to be free. The Jewish people were much like the secrets of people's wrongdoings in Bellhaven and Havenhill because both desperately want freedom. The secrets in Bellhaven want so much to be released that not only was there the eighth plague of locusts, but the locusts cause a disease. The disease they cause was called West Nile virus. Devin McCafferty’s grandmother caught the virus and she along with eight other people, are fighting for their lives. This means that the plague had reached nine people already. In Bellhaven which is a very small town, this outbreak of West Nile virus is seen as an epidemic, and was causing the residence of the town to worry about themselves. They were all on edge, wondering what would proceed this newest disaster.

The town of Bellhaven is hopping with slimy green amphibian. The sounds of their croaking fills the air. This was the first of several “plagues” to hit the unexpecting town and would not be the last. The number of peepers in Bellhaven could have been compared to the number of frogs mentioned in Exodus when the people of Egypt were being plagued because Pharaoh would not free the Jewish slaves. In Exodus, it says,“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country”(Exodus 8). In Exodus, God is sending frogs as a punishment to the Pharaoh for doing the wrong thing and similarly in Shades of Simon Gray, the peepers are sent to Bellhaven as a metaphor to show that there has been a wrongdoing somewhere in the town.


Theme: After reading the book, Shades of Simon Gray, the reader is left with a deep understanding of its theme. This theme is that people tend to make poor decisions when they feel pressured.

Articles—Relating it to the real world....

What do students attending high school at Great Neck, New York and students attending high school in India have in common? They, like many other student, face the pressure of doing well in school, but some students at these schools have decided to take a different route to good grades than most; these two schools both had students who decided to cheat. It was the day of the big exam for 10th graders at many high schools in India. All of the kids were nervous, but some less than others. Some of the students were ready and waiting next to the windows of the classroom for a friend or even a parent to pass them the answer key to the exam. They knew that on the other side of their classroom wall, somebody had climbed up the outside wall of their school, answer sheet in their hand, just to give them their test answer key. It was a large risk to take, but clearly they thought that a free ‘A’ was better than trying their best. Roughly 600 students had been expelled for having this philosophy, which was pushed onto them by the pressure of stress. Each student had been nervous for the exam that would either mean that they continue their education, or their education ended there. The pressure of this stress was just too much for some people, so they thought that the only safe way out was for them to not do any of the work at all.

This is a picture of people outside of the Indian school, handing people inside the school, answer keys.

Students at Great Neck South High School in Great Neck, New York had similar stress, but they did something a little different. Samuel Eshaghoff is a very smart student who studied hard and received a 2,100 out of 2,400 on his SATs. This must have made him realize that he was very smart, smarter than the average student. He decided that he wanted to make some extra money for himself, so he began letting people pay him, so that he could take their SAT for them. Samuel had taken the SATs for more than fifteen people before he was eventually caught and faced community service time. Samuel, along with the students that had paid him, and the 10th grade Indian students were all victims of Social Injustice. They were all unfairly pressured by society to do bad things which got them in a lot of trouble.

This is a picture of Great Neck South High School in Great Neck, New York; the school that had the cheating kids.

Samuel was pressured because society told him, as it tells everyone else, that having lots of money is great and will make you feel good. For example, people see famous people and all of their fame, glory, and money. Since people may see famous people as role models, they will want to be like them, including having all of their money. The Indian students and the students that payed Samuel to take their test for them were pressured by a different part of social pressures. They felt that society was telling them that in order to do well in life and secure a good future, you have to get excellent grades in school in order to get into a good college or get a good job, but none of that is true. Just because you don't get the best grades in every class or on every test, doesn't mean that you are not smart. Your future will still be as bright as someone who has a better grades on something than you. In Shades of Simon Gray, the people in "the project" have similar thinking to these people in real life. They also cheated to get into good colleges in order to get good futures. What all of these students never realized is that the college you go to, the job you get, or the amount of money you have doesn't mean anything. You can have bad grades or not be rich and you can still have a good life.

Thank You!


Created with images by jodylehigh - "tree dead winter" • dbking - "Sen. John Warner / Elizabeth Taylor" • fsHH - "man old white beard" • christels - "desert locust insect macro" • cluczkow - "frog" Anderson, Jenny, and Peter Applebome. "Exam Cheating on Long Island Hardly a Secret." The New York Times [New York], 2 Dec. 2011, p. A1. The New York Times, on-long-island-sat-cheating-was-hardly-a-secret.html. Accessed 1 Dec. 2011. "Antique Photograph+~+Very Handsome Young Man." Pinterest, 214413632231309869/. Curly Tree in the Night. Etsy, curly-tree-in-the-night. "Helping Hand Helping Hand To Help Friend Up." Pamelapics.Com, person-lends-a-helping-hand-to-success-up-arrow-to-a-friend-stock-vector.html. Marionette stick figures. lifehacker, Melanie Pinola, 19 Oct. 2012, three-of-the-most-evil-ways-to-manipulate-people-into-doing-what-you-want. "Red Arrow Clipart." Clipart Kids, edited-red-arrow-clip-art-at-clker-com-vector-clip-art-online-2gEeff-clipart/. "New Mid Length Curly Haircut for Guys." Men's-Hairstyle, 2015, Accessed 12 Nov. 2015. "SELFISH red Rubber Stamp over a white background." Can Stock Photo, "Teen with Brown Hair." Pinterest, "600 Indian Students Expelled from School for Cheating on Tests." Fox News World, 600-indian-students-expelled-from-school-for-cheating-on-tests.html. Woman with red hair and blue eyes. Prezi, Sarah Balmforth, 29 Oct. 2013,

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