Margaret tries on her new bra as soon as she gets home, and her dad embarrasses her at the dinner table that night by congratulating her on growing up. That Monday in school, Margaret quickly examines the boys in her class to determine which ones she wants to add to her Boy Book for the PTS meeting later in the day.
Then, Mr. Benedict announces that each student must begin working on a yearlong project about an individually-selected topic that is meaningful or important. He is noticeably disappointed when the students don't seem particularly excited about this assignment. Margaret acknowledges that nobody in the class is particularly scared of Mr. Benedict, even though students should normally be a little scared of their teacher.
At the club meeting, it is revealed that all the members except for Nancy have purchased Gro-Bras rather than regularly-sized bras. The girls then examine their Boy Books, and it is revealed that every single girl in the club has named Philip Leroy as the number one most attractive boy. When the meeting ends, the four girls notice that Nancy's brother Evan and Evan's friend Moose have been eavesdropping.
The next day at school, the students cause trouble for Mr. Benedict by making "peep" noises over and over, but dispersed throughout the classroom so that Mr. Benedict can't pinpoint the culprit. The following morning, Mr. Benedict rearranges the students' desks in a "U" shape, and Margaret sits next to Laura Danker. This takes care of the peeping problem, but when the students take a social studies test, everyone in the class decides that nobody will put their names on the test, so that Mr. Benedict can't grade the papers.
To the students' surprise, though, the next morning all their names are on the proper test papers; Margaret had done extremely well. Mr. Benedict has been victorious in this second conflict with his class. Margaret herself begins to think about her year-long assignment again, and decides to perform a project based on religion and on her process of choosing a faith.
That Saturday, Margaret visits Lincoln Center with Sylvia for the first of their planned outings, and
tells her grandma she wants to go to temple with her to learn what being Jewish is all about. Obviously, Sylvia is thrilled, but Margaret's parents aren't too pleased when they are informed of this plan. Margaret accompanies her grandma to a service on Rosh Hashanah morning, and tries to get a feel for what temple is like. Afterwards, she meets the rabbi. She doesn't feel anything particularly special, but she's excited to be on the way to choosing a religion.
These few chapters deal in depth with the themes of conformity and peer pressure. In modern society, the pressure for adolescents to do what everyone else is doing in order to fit in is enormous, and Margaret clearly experiences a lot of this kind of pressure in her new school. Undoubtedly, a few kids in the sixth-grade class really do think it will be funny to play tricks on the new teacher; the others merely go along with the crowd, not wanting to be dissenters and acknowledging that if they're misbehaving in a large group, they can't all get in trouble. Conformity plays a huge role in the lives of these adolescents, as these chapters make evident.
The idea of "testing" the new teacher is something that many students today can relate to; whether dealing with a substitute, a leave replacement, or a new hire, we have all given our new teachers at least a little bit of trouble at one point or another. It's almost like an initiation; Mr. Benedict will have to earn the respect of his students. In a way, he's already begun to; he must certainly have spent a lot of time matching names to test papers, but he succeeds in commanding his students' attention and silencing their mischief. Judging by his character and his actions, Mr. Benedict is idealistic but not oblivious; though he has high hopes for his class, he will not let the kids walk all over him. Mr. Benedict and his special projects for the class will certainly prove to be interesting additions to this novel.
At last, Margaret has taken her first steps towards choosing a religion. Though using an exploration of religion as her project idea should be helpful to her in many ways, this project might also put unnecessary pressure on her to choose more quickly than she would have without it. An important question to address in this situation is whether Margaret herself wants to choose right away, or whether she simply feels the pressure to conform.
It certainly seems that social pressure plays a role in Margaret's approach to religion, since she constantly brings up the idea of joining the Y or the Jewish Community Center just like everyone else. It is to be hoped that, along the way, these motives will change as Margaret learns more and more about Christianity and Judaism. Perhaps she will be legitimately ready to choose a faith for her own reasons, or else she will realize that she does not have to choose right away and can instead focus on growing up, which for Margaret is undoubtedly a full-time job.