The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

by: Ann Brashares

Chapters 7 and 8

Bridget watches Eric eat dinner. She gets up for more food and stops to talk to him on her way back to her table, impressing her friends. She writes to Carmen and says she’s been flirting with Eric and sightseeing in a nearby town.

To make her last day with the Pants count, Lena takes a long walk and finds an isolated pond, where she begins to paint. When she gets too hot, Lena takes off all her clothes and gets into the water. Suddenly, she hears a sound and stands up—only to find Kostos looking at her. She grabs her clothes, accusing Kostos of spying on her. Kostos apologizes awkwardly and walks away. Lena, enraged, storms home, not caring that her clothes are askew. When her grandmother asks what happened, Lena says only that Kostos isn’t a nice boy like her grandmother thought.

Analysis

Carmen and Tibby have both faced awkward family changes, in which one or both parents change from living haphazardly to being settled and traditional. When Carmen thought about her summer with her father, she imagined living with him in his sparse one-bedroom apartment, which, in her mind, lacked essential “home” things like curtains and baking soda in the refrigerator. She knew her father ate dinner out every night instead of cooking at home, and she looked forward to that too. Tibby’s parents were once hippies, and they tried to live simple lives without a lot of material things. Tibby remembers the Mexican candlesticks and other objects her parents used to have and use. To the surprise of Carmen and Tibby, their parents have given up their unsettled lifestyles for lives that are more traditional. Carmen’s father has gotten engaged and moved into a comfortable home with everything Carmen can imagine “home” having, including Kleenex box covers and dust ruffles. Tibby’s parents have gotten lucrative jobs and now like to go shopping for nice things. They’ve replaced their Mexican candlesticks with ones from Pottery Barn, and they’ve put away signs of Tibby’s childhood, including salt and pepper shakers she had made. In a way, Carmen’s dad and Tibby’s parents have grown up, finally settling into lives that have shape and structure.

Both Carmen and Tibby liked the way their parents used to be, and they’re unsure about what their roles are in their new family lives and reluctant to participate in their families’ changes. They find themselves awkwardly caught between the past and the present, as if their parents had forged ahead and left them behind. For example, Carmen is uncomfortable in the guest room, since she doesn’t want to feel like a guest around her own father. In his old apartment, she would have felt needed and wanted—as if she belonged. She’s also uncomfortable around her soon-to-be stepmother, stepbrother, and stepsister. At the party she goes to with Krista and Paul, she doesn’t even know how to explain her relationship to them when she meets other people. She reacts bitterly, causing friction between people with established relationships, especially Paul and his girlfriend. Carmen feels displaced, unsure of her identity in her father’s new life. Tibby has a similar struggle. Once an only child, she now has two baby siblings that she is expected to help care for, and she must assume an unfamiliar parenting role. She also feels like she must keep details about her life private because her mother is too busy to listen to her, even though Tibby would like to open up about her new experiences. Both Carmen and Tibby find themselves strangely on their own, forced to accept changes they’re not crazy about and act more mature than they actually feel.