Summary: October

After Greg and Rowley attend the Crossland haunted house and are frightened by a fake chainsaw, they decide to build their own haunted house in Rowley’s basement and charge admission. They only have time to make two parts: the Hall of Screams (a bed) and the Lake of Blood (a pool of ketchup). A few kids show up, but when one crawls under the bed, the boys get caught by Rowley’s father, who shuts the whole enterprise down and grounds Rowley for a week. 

Greg feels jealous of Rowley’s store-bought knight costume, but he is delighted when his mother gives him a pirate costume. The trouble is, Greg’s mother wants him to take Manny trick-or-treating. Later that evening, Greg and Rowley go trick-or-treating alone. They collect lots of candy, but they also get soaked by high schoolers in a truck. When Greg and Rowley threaten to call the cops, the teenagers chase them. Greg and Rowley hide in Greg’s Gramma’s house and call Greg’s mother to say they want to spend the night there. Greg’s mother, however, insists they come home. When they do, Greg’s dad soaks them in the driveway. Greg says that next Halloween, he will stay home.

Analysis: October

Greg and Rowley’s visit to the Crossland Haunted House and his dealings with his younger brother on Halloween illustrate Greg’s internal struggle between his ideas of being a grownup and his reality of still being a kid, a common theme in middle-grade and young adult literature. Greg feels more grown up than he really is. His eagerness for independence inspires the visit to the haunted house. When his mom shows up at the haunted house, Greg feels relieved but also embarrassed by his relief and the fact that he still needs saving. While Greg pretends to be mature, readers get the sense he isn’t quite there yet. Greg’s struggle with growing up and gaining independence is further illustrated on Halloween night. Greg still enjoys children’s activities like trick-or-treating, but his mother says he’s too old. Greg lives in a sort of purgatory in which he is too old for childish fun, but not old enough for true independence. Greg’s frustration with taking Manny trick-or-treating emphasizes his desire to be independent, but only when it comes to trick-or-treating alone, not when it comes to babysitting. Greg embraces the freedom of growing up, but he resists the responsibility.

Greg and Rowley’s decision to create a haunted house in Rowley’s basement illustrates Greg’s tendency to become a bully when he feels insecure, suggesting that bullying is a never-ending cycle. The older kid with the chainsaw at the Crossland Haunted House terrifies Greg, and in return, Greg terrifies Shane, who is much younger. The cycle of bigger kids picking on smaller kids continues when a group of teenagers torment Greg and Rowley while they trick-or-treat, and again when Greg’s dad drenches him and ruins his Halloween candy. On the surface, the novel portrays bullying in a humorous light. The older kids and some adults in Greg’s life bully through pranks. The big kids amuse themselves by picking on the little kids. While funny to the aggressors, the pranks intimidate Greg. Greg is a victim of these pranks almost every day, both at school and home. The bullies model intimidation through pranks for the younger kids, and the cycle never breaks. In Greg’s worldview, one must be the bully or the bullied.