Walk Two Moons | Study Guide

Sharon Creech

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Walk Two Moons | Chapters 23–24 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 23: The Badlands

After her ordeal, Gram is having trouble breathing. Sal doesn't want to stop at the Badlands in South Dakota; she feels her grandparents want to slow down the journey. Sal's mother went to Lewiston, Idaho, because she had a cousin there. She felt her cousin could help her see who she really is apart from her roles as wife and mother—"underneath, where [she is] Chanhassen."

A pregnant woman Sal sees in the Badlands reminds Sal of her own mother's pregnancy. At first Sal wondered why her parents needed another child when they had her. Soon, however, Sal began to regard the birth of her sibling with excitement and anticipation. Three weeks before Sugar's due date, Sal fell out of a tree and broke her leg. Her mother found her and carried her back to the house. That night Sugar gave birth to a dead baby girl, whom Sal named Tulip. Sal felt responsible for the baby's death. Sugar lost a lot of blood and had to have her reproductive organs removed. Since then, pregnant women frighten Sal.

Sal sits skipping stones at the edge of a gorge in the Badlands, thinking about a Native American story her mother told her. The story explained that people die because their creator, Napi, cast a stone into water and it sank rather than floated.

Chapter 24: Birds of Sadness

A long time ago Gram left Gramps for a few days to go with another man, the "egg man." She explains to Sal that sometimes it is necessary to leave a person you love to understand how much you love them.

Sal and her grandparents stay in a motel near Wall, South Dakota. That night, as she sleeps on the waterbed, Sal dreams she is floating down a raft on a river with her mother. The sky comes closer and closer, and suddenly they are both dead, up in the sky.

Sal resumes her story about Phoebe. After Phoebe collects evidence, a fourth message appears: "You can't keep the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair." Phoebe thinks the messages are clues about her mother's whereabouts. Her sadness is evident.

In class Ben reports on the Greek myth of Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods and gave it to man. The "chief god," Zeus, punished Prometheus by chaining him to a rock where vultures would constantly eat his liver, and punished man by sending a woman, Pandora, to earth.

Analysis

In Chapter 23 it is revealed that Sugar undertook her journey away from her family to discover her own identity. Like Mrs. Winterbottom, Sugar felt defined by her roles as wife and mother, and she needed to see what life would be like if she stepped out of those roles. It seems probable that the tragic stillbirth Sal describes helped precipitate this identity crisis: not only did Sugar lose a child, she lost her ability to have more children. As a result her identity as wife and mother may have felt compromised to her, and she believed she needed to regain her sense of personhood by taking temporary leave of these roles. Gram's story of briefly leaving Gramps also serves as a parallel to Sugar's leaving her family; just as leaving someone might help us understand how much we love them, understanding ourselves better will help us love others more fully.

The fourth message left by the lunatic speaks to the problems of grief, loss, and death that Sal struggles with in these chapters. The message makes an analogy between sadness and birds. There will always be sadness, just as birds will always fly in the sky. However, one doesn't need to give sadness a permanent home in one's heart—just as one doesn't need to allow birds to nest in one's hair. This message encapsulates the challenge faced by Sal in the narrative. If she can successfully process her grief for her mother, which includes understanding her mother's reasons for leaving and making peace with the finality of her death, Sal will be, in essence, kicking the birds of sorrow out of her hair.

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