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The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Ann Brashares

Chapters 21 and 22

Chapters 19 and 20

Chapters 23 and 24

Summary: Chapter 21

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tibby stops eating and watches TV in her room, ignoring the ringing phone. Mrs. Graffman leaves a message, asking Tibby to visit Bailey. Tibby can barely handle the pain she feels, and she wishes she could somehow go to sleep in Mimi’s box.

Carmen calls Albert. She’s tempted to apologize, because she knows Albert will instantly forgive her and they can close this episode forever. Instead, she tells him how disappointed she is in how the summer turned out, and how uncomfortable she feels around his new family. Sobbing, she asks him why he left her and Christina, and why he hardly ever visits her. Albert, crying too, apologizes. This is the first time Carmen has heard him cry.

Carmen visits Tibby, but Tibby doesn’t feel like talking. The phone rings, and Mrs. Graffman leaves a message saying that Bailey isn’t well and that they’d like Tibby to visit. Carmen leaves, but she comes back shortly thereafter. She tells Tibby to visit Bailey, gives her the Pants, and then leaves. Late that night, Tibby is suddenly afraid she’s too late. She rides her bike to the hospital, fast. Tibby finds Bailey’s room, where she sees that Bailey has a lot of tubes connected to her. Bailey is asleep, but Tibby squeezes onto the bed with her and holds her hand.

Lena’s family and the rest of the town celebrate an important holiday, the Assumption of the Virgin. After eating and drinking with all the revelers, Lena retreats to her room, watching the party from her window. She sees Effie dance with Andreas. She sees Kostos dance with her grandmother and the other old women, even though lots of young girls are watching him eagerly. Lena cries, but she doesn’t really know why. Later, she looks at the moon from her window, and she sees her grandfather in his window too. She knows she’s a lot like her grandfather, but she hopes she can open herself up enough to find love, like he did.

Summary: Chapter 22

“All Moanday. Tearday. Wailsday. Thumpsday. Frightday. Shatterday.”

—James Joyce

When Effie comes into Lena’s room to borrow clothes, she sees the picture that Lena made of Kostos. She claims that now she knows Lena is in love with Kostos and tells Lena she has to do something or she’ll always be sorry.

Tibby wakes up in the hospital with Bailey. She tells Bailey that Mimi died. Bailey tells Tibby to go to work, because Duncan needs her there, but to come back later. Carmen is waiting for Tibby in the hallway, and they trade pants before leaving the hospital.

On August 19, Carmen, wearing the Pants, goes to the airport and buys a ticket to South Carolina. On the plane, this time she eats the apple from the snack basket instead of saving it. Once she arrives, she goes to a church, right before her father’s wedding begins. She sees a few familiar faces, then she sees her father in his tuxedo, along with his best man, Paul. Krista comes down the aisle, then Lydia. Watching everyone at the altar, Carmen feels sad, knowing she should be with them. Her father sees her on his way out.

All of Bridget’s friends worry about Bridget, who remains listless. Eric asks her to walk with him. On the beach, Eric tells her he knows now how hurt she is by what happened. He says he hadn’t realized how inexperienced she was because she acted so much older. Then he tells her how crazy he is about her but also explains that it’s not the right time. He hopes they meet again when she’s older, he says, because then he can allow himself to really love her. Bridget knows he’s trying to comfort her, but his words have no effect.

Analysis

Throughout the summer, the Pants have made all the girls feel good about themselves, but now the Pants truly help Tibby and Carmen find courage to do necessary things. Tibby, in denial about Bailey’s sickness, has refused to call or visit Bailey in the hospital, and she even screens Bailey’s calls, letting the answering machine pick up. However, when Carmen gives her the Pants, Tibby finally understands how important it is for her to visit to Bailey, and the Pants help her find the courage to get on her bike and go. The Pants also help Carmen do something very brave: face her father and his new family by attending Albert’s wedding. Until now, Carmen has dealt with her anger at her father indirectly, by trying to be perfect for him and by trying to keep their relationship on an even keel. She threw the rock through the window as an act of desperation, but running away kept the action from helping her communicate with her father more honestly. Now, though, she’s found the courage to speak openly with him on the phone, and the Pants are with her when she flies to South Carolina to attend his wedding. Like Tibby, unable to face a future she doesn’t like the looks of, Carmen has refused to face a future that involves accepting her father’s new life. The Pants give both girls the courage to take necessary steps forward, even when what they’re moving toward seems difficult, and the Pants also let the girls feel good about the steps they’ve taken to mend and fix trouble spots in their lives.

Although Effie is younger than Lena, Lena relies on her for frank advice and insight. Effie, the more outgoing and open of the sisters, spends her life engaging with the world rather than brooding about it. Her willingness to put herself out there and really live her life sets her apart from Lena, who prefers to live in her own world, apart from others, while constantly wishing she had the courage to let others into her life. When it comes to love, Effie is the wiser of the two as well. She’s only fourteen, so she doesn’t take love or boys very seriously, but she understands how important love is and can recognize it in Lena. She says what Lena can’t bring herself to admit: that the right thing to do is confess her feelings to Kostos, even though it’s hard to do. Only when Lena hears the words from her sister can she acknowledge their truth. Effie teaches Lena how to avoid regret.

Unlike a lot of novels for young adults, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants deals with heady, difficult subjects. Bridget especially must confront confusing, adult situations when she has a sexual encounter with Eric. She does not know how to feel, how to act, or what to say, but she understands that their relationship has changed her profoundly. Her weight loss symbolizes on the outside how much she has changed on the inside. She goes from being lighthearted and competitive to unsure, angry, and restless. Her explosion at Molly the coach indicates her immaturity and demonstrates just how unprepared Bridget was for the aftermath of her interaction with Eric. Even Eric assumed that Bridget could handle the consequences of her actions. As Eric speaks with her on the beach, Bridget does not feel comforted by his words. Rather, she retreats further inward, shielding herself from the painful world around her. Of all the girls, Bridget changes the most physically and emotionally, perhaps because her changes are the most severe and intense. Bridget’s experience is something of a lesson in patience and of caution about rushing headlong and thoughtlessly into new situations.

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