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Walk Two Moons

Sharon Creech

Chapters 37–40

Chapters 33–36

Chapters 41–44

Summary

Chapter 37: A Kiss

Sal, overcome with shock, races off campus, leaving Phoebe behind her. She accidentally runs past the bus stop and finds herself at the hospital. On impulse, she asks the receptionist if she can see Mrs. Finney, Ben's mother. The woman informs her that Mrs. Finney is in the psychiatric ward, and only family members can visit her. She suggests Sal look for her on the back lawn. There, Sal finds Ben and his mother sitting on the lawn. Ben tries to introduce Sal to her, but she hardly seems to notice Sal, and even stands up and begins to walk absently around the lawn, reminding Sal of her mother after she lost the baby. Finally, Sal decides to leave, but her eyes meet Ben's, and the two lean forward to kiss each other.

Chapter 38: Spit

Sal finds a disgruntled Phoebe waiting at the bus stop. Phoebe describes watching Mrs. Winterbottom and the lunatic sitting on the bench, laughing, and spitting into the grass, an act that disgusts Phoebe and causes her to decide that Mrs. Winterbottom does not need her after all. At home, Prudence tells Phoebe and Mr. Winterbottom that Mrs. Winterbottom has phoned, saying that she and a guest will come home the next day. Mr. Winterbottom becomes upset, demanding to know more about this guest, but Prudence only knows that the guest is a man. Phoebe storms into her room. That night, Sal tells her father about the developments in Phoebe's story and wishes that her mother, like Mrs. Winterbottom, would come back.

Chapter 39: Homecoming

The next day, Phoebe calls Sal, begging her to come over and be with her during Mrs. Winterbottom's return. Sal reluctantly agrees. At Phoebe's house, Mr. Winterbottom and Prudence are wracked with worry, fussing nervously over the house itself. Finally, Mrs. Winterbottom arrives at the door. She is a changed woman: she has a stylish short haircut, and she is wearing makeup and stylish, casual clothes. Behind her is Mike Bickle, the lunatic. Mrs. Winterbottom begins crying in confusion and anguish, and soon explains to her family that Mike is her son, whom she bore when she was young and whom she gave up for adoption. She is distraught that she is not as respectable as her family thinks, but Mr. Winterbottom repeatedly insists that he does not care about respectability. He is visibly upset, but graciously welcomes Mike into the family. Phoebe grabs Sal's arm and storms out, and the two girls almost collide with Mrs. Partridge, who is leaving a message on the front stoop.

Chapter 40: The Gifts

Sal and her grandparents reach Idaho, and Sal begins to believe that they will indeed reach Lewiston on the next day, her mother's birthday. Gram's voice and breathing sound troubled, and Sal and Gramps begin to worry about her. At Gram's prompting, Sal launches into the end of Phoebe's story. On the stoop, Mrs. Partridge explains that she has been leaving the messages, which Margaret writes for her, out of a sense of fun. As Mrs. Partridge returns to her home, the two girls walk to the street. Gathering their courage, they spit into the street. Phoebe turns and walks back into her house, and Sal, following Phoebe's lead, turns and walks into Mrs. Cadaver's house. After Mrs. Cadaver tells Sal how she met her father, Sal returns home, where Ben is waiting for her. Ben has bought her a chicken, which he tells her, after kissing her, he has named Blackberry. Sal, having finished her story, sits back, but then worriedly notices how ill Gram looks. The car speeds toward Lewiston.

Analysis

Troubled mothers haunt the pages of Walk Two Moons. Sal's mother, we know, felt inadequate next to her husband and was deeply troubled by her miscarriage and hysterectomy. Phoebe's mother not only feels troubled by the way in which her family never seems to notice her, but by her stifling desire to hide her past in order that she appear "perfect" to her family. Ben's mother, though the novel does not tell us the source of her problems, floats absently through the lawn at the mental hospital, reminding Sal of her own mother. The fathers in the novel seem troubled in their own ways—Mr. Winterbottom is emotionally withdrawn and rigid, Sal's father is clearly still grieving over his wife, but not to the point of emotional breakdown. Thus, Creech suggests that the mental strain of being a wife and mother exceeds the strain of being a husband and father, or that this strain arises from a wife and mother's tendency to define herself only in terms of those two roles. The Finneys provide an exception to these patterns, but, significantly, Mrs. Finney, Mary Lou's mother, works.

Both Sal's mother and Mrs. Winterbottom endured problematic births. Sal's mother lost her baby and nearly lost her life in childbirth, and Mrs. Winterbottom bore an illegitimate son whom she had to give up for adoption. The actual bearing of children is, after all, one of the few responsibilities of childrearing that can be fulfilled only by women. Significantly, childbearing is also often the riskiest and most ideologically charged of these responsibilities. Sal's mother almost loses her life in childbirth, and Mrs. Winterbottom must bear the shame and confusion of being a young, unwed mother. These trying experiences lie at the core of the two women's malaise and, in their own forms, activate the two women's quest for self-renewal.

Mrs. Winterbottom's quest for reconciliation with her past and self-renewal challenges the roles of all her family members, especially Mr. Winterbottom. For the first time, he realizes how much the functioning of the household depends on her, and, as the days pass and she does not return, he becomes more and more aware of how much he depends on her emotionally, finally breaking into tears, though Phoebe has never before seen him cry. When Mrs. Winterbottom returns, he worries that she may be having an affair—he becomes visibly upset when Prudence tells him Mrs. Winterbottom is bringing a man with her when she returns home and frets over his wife's reaction to the house. When she does finally arrive, his voice and hands tremble, and he defied Mrs. Winterbottom's understanding of him by avowing that he does not care whether she is respectable, he only cares whether or not she feels she can communicate with him. Mrs. Winterbottom's decision to leave has forced him to reexamine his role as father and husband.

The two girls, before facing up to their respective challenges, mimic Phoebe's mother by spitting into the road. This act symbolizes Phoebe's decision to accept and even embrace Mrs. Winterbottom's defiance of the role and behaviors she herself, with the reinforcement of her husband and daughters, has thus far in her life prescribed for herself. Moreover, it shows Phoebe, with Sal's support, relinquishing some of her own overly developed sense of propriety. The significance of Phoebe's decision also indicates the significance of Sal's decision to talk to Margaret Cadaver. Although Sal downplays this decision by withholding the details of the encounter from us at this point in the narrative, this confrontation takes as much courage and resolve as her decision to travel to Lewiston to see her mother. The girls' spitting recalls a compact, in which two partners spit in their palms and shake. Together, the two girls agree that they must, on their own but with the support of the other, face their dragons.

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WRONG INFO

by hbjjhquz, September 07, 2013

It is "You can't keep the birds of SADNESS from flying overhead, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair,"

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