Walk Two Moons | Study Guide

Sharon Creech

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Course Hero, "Walk Two Moons Study Guide," August 23, 2017, accessed October 23, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Walk-Two-Moons/.

Walk Two Moons | Chapters 29–30 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 29: The Tide Rises

Sal resumes telling her story. Mr. Birkway has his class read the poem "The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls" by Longfellow. Both Phoebe and Sal are upset by the poem, which describes a traveler who enters the ocean and never returns from it. Phoebe says the sea murders the traveler. Sal says "it isn't normal to die," and Megan asks, "What about God?" Ben suggests "dying could be normal and terrible."

After class Phoebe and Sal go to the police station. There Phoebe tells Sergeant Bickle about Mrs. Cadaver, the lunatic, the messages, and her mother's disappearance. The sergeant calls Phoebe's father to take the girls home. Mr. Winterbottom talks to Mrs. Cadaver, but she has no more details about Phoebe's mother. When Phoebe says, "Mom loves me, and she would not leave me without any explanation," Phoebe's father cries.

Chapter 30: Breaking In

Sal tells her grandparents how she and Phoebe sneak into Mrs. Cadaver's house one night. They are startled to find blind Mrs. Partridge sitting in the dark. Sal thinks the house is "a scary place" full of "startling" artifacts. Phoebe tells Mrs. Partridge they came to check on her. Mrs. Partridge tells them she met Phoebe's brother, and Phoebe replies that she doesn't have a brother. Outside the house Sal tells Phoebe her mother might have left without explanation, despite loving Phoebe, and that she might not come back. Phoebe tells Sal she's "being horrid" and runs off.

Sal stays up all night thinking. Both she and Phoebe treasure the items that remind them of their mothers and regularly revisit the memories surrounding those items. Sal notes, "If I did not have these things and remember these occasions, then she might disappear forever." Sal thinks of the Longfellow poem and struggles to understand how dying could be both "normal and terrible." Sal wants to ask Ben about his mother. She remembers Mr. Winterbottom crying. In the morning Sal calls Phoebe and says, "Phoebe, we've got to find her."

Analysis

Each student in Mr. Birkway's class interprets the Longfellow poem differently—according to their own agendas, to borrow the idea contained in the lunatic's second message. Mrs. Winterbottom and Sugar are like the traveler in the poem, who disappeared after answering the call of the sea. The poem upsets Sal and Phoebe because it is impossible to understand how and why the sea lured the traveler into disappearing. It is even more painful because, although the traveler's disappearance is permanent, life continues as before, and the tide continues to rise and fall. The poem is a metaphorical container for Sal and Phoebe's experiences of losing their mothers.

But the traveler has not completely disappeared because he continues to live, in a sense, each time the poem is read anew. Similarly, Sal keeps her mother "alive" by keeping her memories of her mother fresh and by living amongst items that are haunted by her mother's presence, and she understands that Phoebe is doing the same thing. This seems to be a contradiction: how could one be both alive and dead? In these chapters, Sal and Phoebe are faced with several other contradictions: a mother might leave yet love her daughter; Mr. Winterbottom cries although he never cries; dying is normal as well as terrible; Mrs. Partridge meets Phoebe's brother even though Phoebe has no brother. Sal thinks all night about these seemingly irreconcilable truths, and in the morning, concludes that she must honor the love that Phoebe and her family have for Mrs. Winterbottom by helping Phoebe in her quest to find her mother. Whether or not Mrs. Winterbottom can be found is secondary; what matters is that the effort to find her is made—just as Sal is now traveling to Idaho to metaphorically "find" her deceased mother by retracing her final journey.

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