“The Paul Street Boys” is a novel that speaks of the childhood of a group of friends. They are trying to protect their play ground from another group that wants to get rid of them.
A little group of boys led by Boka and Nemecsek have one thing in common and that is a playground where they spend their time together. The playground consists of a piece of land and some torn down buildings.
Their “playground” was rented by a sawmill so the place was crowded with wood, cut out to perfect squares, and the wood was sorted in a special way so it formed a labyrinth for the boys to play in.
Their playground was the best for them. The storehouse of woods was a small city, and the rest of the playground represented the prayer. The novel begins in a classroom where a note is passed from one boy to another. The note said “Gathering at three…”
After class the boys rushed out of school and Nemecsek couldn’t wait to tell the rest of the group that the twins from the rival group ‘’Redshirts” stole all the marbles from the boys who were playing in the Paul street.
The guys were repulsed by the twin’s act and even the quiet leader Boka agreed that their behavior is despicable. The first boy who arrived to the gathering was Nemecsek and that was a part of his duty because the group was organized like a military. Nemecsek was really tiny so he was just a regular soldier unlike most of the others.
While he was walking between the piled up wood a dog drew his attention because he was acting strange. He was running around one of the piles where the boys build a fortress. Despite his hunch that something was going on he climbed to the fortress and there he encountered an unpleasant surprise. The leader of “Redshirts” Ats was there.
Nemecsek was so frightened that he ran away and his friends believed his story when they saw their red and green flag was missing. For them it was a declaration of war. They decided to elect a president who will be in charge of leading the war and protecting their interests. Boka wonand his first move was to visit the Redshirts in the botanical garden and show them they are just as strong as them.
They came up with a plan in which the two strongest boys had to go to the enemy’s camp and set a sign that said ‘”The boys from Paul Street were here”. Everybody loved the idea.
Nemecsek and another boy sign up for the assignment and with the help of a binocular they spot a little island that was the camp of Redshirts. They couldn’t reach the island with a bridge because it was guarded so they had to go by a boat. While they were getting into the boat Nemecsek slipped and fell into the water. They problems began there. Boka and Nemecsek managed to get to the enemy’s camp and there they saw one of their own boys named Gereb telling Ats the easiest way to break into their playground. Nemecsek was so hurt by that betrayal that he started crying.
When the Redshirts got away they used the moment to set their sign. The sign was soon discovered so they had to run. After they jumped over the fence they were safe.
Next day in school the professor called some boys to talk to him in private. They were all from Paul Street and they were the members of a certain group called “Group for putty gathering”. The professor started to ask them questions and they explained him how they gather putty. In the professor’s cabinet was a stamp that said “Group for putty gathering, Budapest 1889”.
The group’s honor was saved by Nemecsek who, during the interrogation, gathered some putty from the window. They boys decided to make a group meeting during which Nemecsek realized that the group traitor Gereb sneaked into the guard’s office and bribed him with cigarettes to chase the boys away.
Nemecsek wanted to tell Boka all about it but in a hurry he forgot about the meeting. The boys from the group declared him a traitor and kicked him out of the group. Two days later Redshirts planned their revenge.
Ats knew that the guard was bribed with cigarettes and he was furious about it. He did not want to play dirty. During the Redshirts meeting Nemecsek jumped from the tree he was hiding on and Ats was impressed with his bravery. He even suggested that Nemecsek should join his group but he declined.
Ats thought Nemecsek was to weak and did not want the other boys to hit him but he did order the boys to bath him in the lake. Nemecsek was already a bit ill from the last bathe in the lake. Despite the fact that he was wet and ill Nemecsek held a speech about trust and honesty that made the boys let him go.
The next day the boys saw a sign written by their president: “Attention! From now on we need to watch our back. Our country is in danger and if we don’t act with caution we’ll lose our playground. Redshirts want to attack us but we will stand strong and defend our territory with our lives, if needed.”
The boys started to get ready for the attack that was expected the very next day. Even though they can’t believe everything is happening so fast, they listen to their president. Boka named Nemecsek his sidekick and the boys from the putty gathering group protested against that. Nemecsek explained to him why he got kicked out of the group and called a traitor.
The boys prepared their sand bombs and fortresses but when Boka prepared to check everything out the group’s traitor Gereb appeared and apologized for telling the Redshirts how they can get into their playground. Boka said no to them but then his father asked for an evidence of betrayal and he asked the weak Nemecsek to show it to him. Boka decided to take him home but before that Nemecsek told Gereb’s father that Gereb wasn’t a traitor.
Nemecsek condition was getting worse and worse and he evens started hallucinating. Boka started crying when he saw that he was so ill. The next day boys received a letter from Gereb saying that his father gave him his favorite book from Jules Verne because he wasn’t a traitor. He gave the book to Nemecsek as a sign of gratitude.
Redshirts found out that Nemecsek was ill so they decided to postpone their attack. Gereb heard their conversation and told everything he knew to Boka’s group. Boka, with the agreement from the other boys, concluded that Gereb wasn’t lying so they accepted him back again.
Redshirts messengers come to the playground to declare war and set the rules of the war. After that they went to Nemecsek’s house and apologized about everything they did to him.
The battle started like the Paul street boys imagined it would. The boys attacked and with the help of their sand bombs the Paul Street boys closed him in a tiny shack. The other part of the Redshirts was led by Ats and he decided to put aside the rules and a big fight broke out.
Ats managed to get to the shack and he tried to liberate the boys but Nemecsek appeared. He kicked Ats to the ground and then he fainted. All chaos broke loose and the Paul street boys used it to chase away Redshirts. They picked up Nemecsek from the ground and he told them that he heard a voice in his head telling him that it is his duty to help his friends.
Nemecsek’s mother picked him up and took him home while Boka was sensing the worse ending for Nemecsek. Ats felt guilty about everything so he came and apologized to Boka. Boka visited Nemecsek and told him all about his apology and that the putty gathering group accepted him back. Everyone was really sad because they knew that Nemecsek won’t make it out alive. He was delirious before he finally found peace.
After his death Boka was very sad and he headed towards the playground they fought for so much. He saw an engineer measuring the field because he wanted to build a building there. Boka realized it was all for nothing and for the first time figured out what is actually life.
Characters: Boka, Nemecsek, Ats, Gereb
Ernest Nemecsek – small, fragile boy with blond hair. He was simple and wanted someone to notice him. His skinniness and weakness were the reason he was always teased by the other boys. He came from a poor family and his father was a tailor. In the organized military unit everyone had their assignment, except for him. He was a regular soldier. Nemecsek was happy and satisfied even when he had to bow down to someone. Despite his weakness he was always ready to fight for their playground. His sacrifice was his death and it brought the boys together.
Boka – he was called general Boka and was the leadr of Paul street boys. He was strong, brave, hones, full of understanding and wise. The author described him as a boy who looked like he was older than he really is. He was fourteen but when he opened his mouth he sounded older. He was very sensitive and shocked when Nemecsek died so he started crying for him.
Ats – the Redshirts’s leader. Despite the fact that he was Paul Street boy’s rival he was never mean. He was strong and had a pinch of knight courage. The redshirt looked good on him. He was truly concerned about Nemecsek.
Ferenc Molnar Biography
Ferenc Molnar was born in 1878 in Budapest as Feren Neumann. He became a famous writer, dramatic and one of the most acknowledge writers of the 20th century.
His love were comedies, novel and children stories that were about the kids growing up, such as “Paul Street Boys.”
During the World War I. Ferenc was a war correspondent and a big supporter of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He received both acknowledgment and critics for his believe.
He emigrated to the USA to avoid the Nazi Jew persecution. He died in New York in 1952 when he was 74 years old.
Even though he had written a lot, he is most famous for “Paul street boys” and that novel is considered to be one of the best children’s book of all time. Also some of his famous plays are “The Guardsman” and “The swan”. The novel “The Paul Street Boys” was TV adapted and it is one of the most read books in Hungary.