Walk Two Moons | Study Guide

Sharon Creech

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Course Hero. "Walk Two Moons Study Guide." August 23, 2017. Accessed November 14, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Walk-Two-Moons/.


Course Hero, "Walk Two Moons Study Guide," August 23, 2017, accessed November 14, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Walk-Two-Moons/.

Walk Two Moons | Chapters 39–40 | Summary



Chapter 39: Homecoming

Sal continues her story. Phoebe describes how, anticipating Mrs. Winterbottom's return, Prudence and Mr. Winterbottom deep-cleaned the house and then "messed things up" so that Mrs. Winterbottom wouldn't think they could "function without her." Sal reluctantly agrees to be Phoebe's "witness" for her mother's homecoming.

Mrs. Winterbottom brings Mike Bickle, the lunatic, with her. Mrs. Winterbottom now has short hair and a new style: "She looked magnificent, but she did not look like Phoebe's mother." Mrs. Winterbottom "look[s] frightened...of her husband." Phoebe nearly faints, while Prudence acts flirtatiously toward Mike. Agitated, Mr. Winterbottom demands an explanation.

Mrs. Winterbottom tearfully asks Mr. Winterbottom's forgiveness—she has always tried to be perfect but has failed to be respectable. Mike is her son; he adopted by another family before her marriage. When Mike found Mrs. Winterbottom, she "had to go away and sort things out" because she has "lived such a tiny life." Mr. Winterbottom isn't concerned with respectability; he says he feels he doesn't know his wife and is concerned she kept Mike a secret. Sal feels deeply sad for everyone present and says she should go. Mr. Winterbottom says "Sal is like another member of the family." Phoebe is mad at her mother, and she escorts Sal out, saying "when you all decide exactly how many people are in this family, let me know." On the porch, Phoebe and Sal see Mrs. Partridge putting "a white envelope on the steps."

Chapter 40: The Gifts

Just then, Gramps, Gram, and Sal cross into Idaho. Gram is tired and has a worrisome cough. They plan to spend the night in Coeur d'Alene, a hundred miles from Lewiston.

Sal continues her story. The new message is the same as the first: "Don't judge a man until you've walked two moons in his moccasins." Mrs. Partridge explains that the messages come from the newspaper, and she was leaving them as "grandiful surprises...like fortune cookies." When Phoebe asks Mrs. Partridge about meeting Phoebe's brother, Mrs. Partridge says Mike recently came to her house by mistake; she thought he was Phoebe's brother by the way his face felt. Phoebe and Sal spit into the street and enjoy it.

Sal goes to talk with Mrs. Cadaver and finally learns how she met Sal's father.

Ben is waiting for Sal on her front steps. He has brought her a chicken as a gift. They kiss, and Ben says he named the chicken Blackberry.

Sal tells her grandparents the story is finished. Gram looks gray as they speed toward Coeur d'Alene.


As Sal notes, it is "fitting" that Phoebe's story reaches its climax and ends just as she and her grandparents drive into Idaho. To this point, the novel has consisted of two primary narrative threads, the first being the experiences Sal is having with her grandparents on the road trip, the second being the story of Phoebe Winterbottom that Sal tells during the car ride. Now that Phoebe's story has been told until its resolution, the first narrative thread is free to come to the forefront. This is important because Sal's journey is fast approaching its own climax: she will soon reach the place, Lewiston, Idaho, where her mother died. It was necessary for Sal to tell Phoebe's story because it mirrors and helps contain her own story; just as Sal noted in Chapter 1, her own story is hidden "beneath" Phoebe's story, like the brick fireplace that Sal's father uncovered by removing the plaster around it. In a similar fashion, Sal has gradually been revealing her own story by the very act of telling Phoebe's story as well as by relating the experiences and emotions she experiences on the trip with her grandparents.

These two chapters reveal that nothing is what it seemed to be. Mike Winterbottom is not a lunatic, but rather Phoebe's own brother. It is Mrs. Partridge, not Mike, who is responsible for the messages. And it is blind Mrs. Partridge, in another case of dramatic irony, who understood the true relationship between Mike, Phoebe, and Mrs. Winterbottom—long before Phoebe, with all her anxious efforts, learned the truth. Creech demonstrates that our assumptions and the stories we tell ourselves are often wrong, and that the truth can be more fantastic than what the imagination can produce.

The idea of lunacy, which is explored through Phoebe's conception of Mike as well as Ben Finney's mother, is another example of incorrect assumptions. When Phoebe first sees her brother Mike, she assumes he is a lunatic and is going to hurt the family. While this is not literally true, it is true that Mike's presence disrupts the family, but not in a harmful way, and he is certainly not "a lunatic" or out of his mind in any way. However, Ben's mother is, in fact, mentally ill, and once Ben shares that fact with Sal (and the reader), the idea of lunacy shifts—Ben's mother is ill, not frightening, and Phoebe's assumptions about lunatics are revealed as stereotypical and melodramatic.

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