© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Borrowers

The Borrowers


by Mary Norton

Analysis: Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Exposition (Initial Situation)

Dude, Where's My Crochet Hook?

Kate and Mrs. May are making a quilt when Kate notices her crochet hook is missing, and that can only mean one thing: the house must be full of Borrowers. And so begins the story of how Mrs. May first heard of the little people called borrowers from her brother. We meet our main protagonists: Arrietty, her mother, Homily, and her father, Pod. And that's all we really need to get a grasp of the opening of our story.

Rising Action (Conflict, Complication)

Part of Your World

Arrietty wants to go upstairs and see the outside world, but her parents worry about the dangers, like getting "seen" by humans. It's parents versus kids until Homily and Pod let Arrietty go borrowing with her father. Arrietty not only gets "seen" by a human, but they become good friends. Do you see the problem here?

Arrietty's parents sure do when they catch her hanging out with the boy and realize they are going to have to move to save their skins. Instead of moving, however, a golden age of borrowing begins. But as contact with the human world increases, the stakes get much, much higher.

Climax (Crisis, Turning Point)

Attack of the Cook

Mrs. Driver, the cook, notices that "borrowed" things have gone missing and catches the boy in the act of trying to help the borrowers. She threatens to call the police and exterminators to get rid of the pests, and she locks the boy in his room. We gotta say, things look pretty bad.

Yep, Mrs. Driver sics policemen, cats, and rat-catchers on the borrower family, but the boy defies the cook by escaping from his room, grabbing a pickax, and smashing the grate to give the borrowers some breathing room. This is definitely the point of no return—but do the borrowers escape?

Falling Action

Back at Tea Time Again?

One minute policemen, cats, and rat-catchers are all over the place, and the next minute we're back having tea with Kate and Mrs. May?


This is definitely the falling action of the novel, as things start to wrap up slowly. Crocheting by the fire, Mrs. May and Kate imagine what the borrowers' new life must be like after their escape.

Resolution (Denouement)

Diary of a Borrower

Mrs. May reveals that she went back to the house and found Arrietty's diary.

Hey—this is proof positive that the family escaped, right?

Not so fast. It turns out that Mrs. May's brother and Arrietty have the same handwriting, which is more than a little suspicious. So do the borrowers exist? Or was it all an elaborate fantasy made up by Mrs. May's brother? Our story may be done for now, but it's anything but over.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...