Maestro Summary and Analysis of 1968


Paul returns to school the next year. He meets Rosie Zollo, a new student from the South and the daughter of the new French teacher. Rosie takes an instant liking to Paul and begins to spend her lunch breaks in the music room with him. He initially finds her annoying and dislikes her overt adoration.

As Keller continues to share with Paul his musical philosophies, Paul in turn recites these to Rosie. Paul begins to ask Keller more questions about Vienna and his past, though Keller continues to answer vaguely. When Keller is late to one lesson, Paul begins to look through the scrapbooks Keller filled with newspaper clippings of tragedies and general acts of stupidity. He allows Paul to take home the "textbook," as he calls it, but Paul's father bans him from reading it. Paul's father grows increasingly disenchanted with his job as a doctor, while focusing more on the tropical environment and deciding that their location makes them part of Asia.

John and Nancy's Friday soirées develop a subcommittee to bring concert artists up from the South to perform in Darwin. Their first concert is by the Brisbane Symphony. Paul attends with his parents and Herr Keller, and Rosie comes and sits next to him. When Rosie moves closer to Paul and their thighs touch, he suddenly finds himself attracted to her. His lust for Rosie overpowers his focus on the concert music. During the final piece, the Act 1 Prelude from Wagner's Lohengrin, Keller wobbles to his feet and begins to shout in German. The ushers come to beg him, "Not again," and he leaves.

After the performance, Paul heads off with Rosie on the pretense of walking her home. The two head into the thickest region of the Gardens, where they share their first sexual experience. When Paul heads to his next lesson, he stops outside the door at the sound of Herr Keller playing a Wagner piece and singing with angry passion. Keller cancels their lesson but allows Paul to listen to him play. The maestro critics the music, but Paul finds it beautiful and compares it to lovemaking.

Paul and Rosie's lunchtime rendezvous in the Music Room are soon interrupted when Jimmy Papas, Scotty Mitchell, and Reggie Lim bust into the room with a crowd of students to practice for their new band. The band kicks him out, but Paul listens to them play as he slowly packs up his music. He chimes in with a piece of Keller-like advice that they should do the simple things well. Jimmy is angered, but Scotty is curious, and Paul plays the Hound Dog sheet music Scotty hands him and impresses them with his musical knowledge. Paul convinces them to let him join in with the band for a few sessions. By joining the band, Paul is quickly transformed from the target of the school bullies into their friend.

Megan drives Paul to one of his practices with the band, but instead takes him by the harbor where she makes a move on him and they have sex on a rug on the sand. The experience is disappointing for Paul, who discovers Megan to be a passive, selfish lover. Terrified that he might lose Rosie, he rushes to her as soon as he gets home and promises that he loves her and that there will never be anyone else for him. To his parents' concern, Paul becomes increasingly infatuated with Rosie, spending every evening with her. Paul attempts to ask Herr Keller why he didn't leave during the Nazi occupation if his wife was Jewish. Keller says that it is simpler to decide in retrospect, and that he was too insensitive.

Jimmy gets a panel van for his sixteenth birthday. The band, which they name Rough Stuff, decides to enter the annual Battle of the Sounds competition, with the grand prize of a trip to Adelaide for the final competition. When Paul tells them that the judge is Rockin' Rick Whiteley, they are certain they will win. A radio DJ who recently moved to the North, Rick hosts the Drive-Time Top 40. He refused to play country western ballads on his show, stirring up controversy and getting him banished to the graveyard shift. The members of Rough Stuff held a sit in after his demotion, after which they got drunk and listened to Chuck Berry tapes with Rick. The Battle of the Sounds competition, which reminds Paul of a school dance, is held in the packed Town Hall. Rough Stuff plays the Chuck Berry songs Reelin' and Rockin', Sweet Little Sixteen, Rock n' Roll Music, and one required original track. The band wins, though Paul feels he has done little to deserve the fame and affirmation, saying the deafening sound of their music made him feel like he needed to use his bowels.


This chapter continues to present the theme of Paul’s sexuality as central to his coming-of-age story. Paul's relationship with Rosie is the central component of his sexual maturity. Initially he is not attracted to her at all, but after sitting next to her at the concert, he is overcome by the sensuality of their touch. The two develop a lasting relationship and share their first sexual moment. Although Paul is in love with Rosie throughout the novel, her character is not developed very much. This lack of character development keeps the focus of the story on Keller and makes Paul's relationship with Rosie clearly symbolic of the sexual part of his coming of age.

One of Paul’s character traits that emerges in the novel is his desire for perfection and success. This is evident when Paul gives in to the opportunity to sleep with Megan even though he is already in a relationship with Rosie. Paul has idealized Megan and dreamed of having her as his romantic partner. However, when he actually gets what he desired, he realizes that what he had thought would be perfect actually was not.

Paul’s development and maturity is shown again during the Battle of the Sounds competition. Although the band wins the competition, Paul does not enjoy the victory. He realizes his own distaste for Rough Stuff's type of music, which is another instance of his process of developing his own tastes and desires.

While looking through Keller's scrapbooks, Paul discovers that the articles Keller reads are about catastrophe, suffering, and human ignorance. These articles are smudged onto his pure white coat as if they were crimes and misdeeds smudged onto his pure conscience. Keller calls them textbooks, a word that symbolizes the educational value he believes they have for Paul.

Continuing the book’s theme of escape, Paul finds himself trying to flee when the bullies come after him at school. This conflict is resolved when Paul helps teach the band members how to play better music. The roles have switched and Paul the student becomes Paul the teacher. This experience showing the saving power that music and teaching can have for those who are suffering.