For more than two-thirds of its existence, Harvard College was surrounded by nothing more than a low post-and-beam fence. Then a decision was made to enclose the Yard in a more elaborate fashion and the Johnston Gate, the first and oldest of Harvard’s gates, was built in 1889.
At the time many people apparently derided the ornate fence, considering it pretentious and inconsistent with the school’s Puritan heritage. But their criticism had little effect. In the years that followed different Harvard graduating classes raised the funds needed to extend the fence and build still more gates.
But if the iron and brick fence and elaborate gates were intended to keep people out of Harvard Yard, it hasn’t worked out that way. Most of the gates are open most of the time and anyone can gain entrance to the Yard through them.
Several of those gates have already played a role in The Opened Door. For example, the aphorism carved above the Dexter Gate near Wigglesworth Hall — Enter To Grow In Wisdom — serves as a continuing reinforcement for Sean in his quest to attend college.
As mentioned, the Johnston Gate is the oldest of all the gates and generally considered the main entrance to Harvard Yard. Unlike most of the others, however, Johnston is closed for most of the year. Apparently it’s considered bad luck for a student at Harvard to pass through it more than twice, once when they first arrive on campus during their freshman year and then a second time after they graduate.
As with many things, it’s hard to know how seriously students take that superstition these days. Whatever the case may be, you’ll find two plaques at the Johnston Gate. The first, generally known as New England’s First Fruits (and, yes, I realize how ironic that is), is a testament to the commitment the earliest settlers in Massachusetts had to higher education. You should take a look at it if you want to know more.
For the introduction to this chapter, however, I’ve chosen to highlight the second plaque, pictured above, to tell a bit about the history of Harvard College. You’ll be able to get a much better view of the plaque if you click on the image.
Not wanting to give away the chapter completely, I won’t say much more; just that the chapter takes a few liberties with history but all for a worthwhile cause. The chapter is also a little rough because I didn’t have as much time as usual to work on it.
As you’ll recall, Holden outed himself to Sean in the last chapter, which caused Sean to do the same. After a long romantic walk along the Charles River, the two boys ended up spending the night together in Holden’s bed. Sadly, due to a lack of foresight, not much came of their first romantic effort.
Curse the author for that if you will, but there are still some people who consider virginity a prize best not frittered away in a moment of passion. Hopefully one of you will step forward to affirm that 😀
I don’t know about you, but the last chapter was a pretty dramatic one for me, especially toward the end when we found out that Sean’s father had slapped and punched Kevin, causing Kev to storm out of the house and run away.
I thought that would get more attention in the comments than it did, but, then again, I suppose people are focused primarily on the relationship between Holden and Sean. That’s fine, but Sean’s relationship with Kevin is an important part of the story as well so we’ll have to see how that plays out.
Chapter 13 is up; at least I hope it is. In a twist, it will also be narrated by Holden just like the last one. Have fun reading and be sure to let me know what you think.