Dreams and Hopes
The characters in this story all have big hopes and dreams. Sal wants to bring her mother back home. Phoebe wants to bring her mother back home. Mike wants to be reunited with his mother. Sal's dad wants to stop being haunted by his wife. Sal's mother wants to find her real self. Mrs. Winterbottom wants to stop feeling so lonely.
Whose hopes and dreams come true? Whose hopes and dreams do not? Whose hopes and dreams change, and how do they change?
Family is very important to Sal. She is grieving the fact that hers is now broken. We see many different kinds of families, and their different characteristics help us to understand their individual members:
- The Hiddle family (before Chanhassen Hiddle left): A totally fun-loving, happy family that loves being together and loves exploring all that nature has to offer.
- The Hiddle Family (after Chanhassen Hiddle left): A very hurt and broken family that doesn't talk very much; kind of like the Winterbottoms.
- The Winterbottoms: A very somber, strict family that eats in silence, locks doors, ignores Mrs. Winterbottom, and that generally seems kind of boring and unhappy.
- The Finneys: A fun-loving family in Euclid that isn't very organized but that is full of love. This family reminds Sal of her own family.
- The Birkways (Mr. Birkway, Mrs. Cadaver, Mrs. Partridge): An eclectic family that sticks together and that loves each other, in spite of a history of great sadness and pain.
- The Pickfords (Chanhassen Hiddle's parents): A very strict and rigid family that worries a lot about being "respectable;" the opposite of the Hiddle family.
So what do all these family's characteristics tell us about their members? What kind of person would you expect to find in the Finney family, for example? Or the Pickfords?
Names tell us all kinds of things about all the fun and quirky people we meet in Walk Two Moons. For example, Sal's loves trees, so it totally fits that her middle name is "Tree." Sal's mother's name, Chanhassen, mean's sugar maple, which happens to be her favorite tree.
In fact, Chanhassen's name is one of the most interesting in the novel, mainly because of her own opinion of it. Her name is Chanhassen, but everybody calls her Sugar. This all seems well and good until one day, she says to her husband, "I wish someone would call me by my real name. My name isn't Sugar. It's Chanhassen" (18.15). What's all this about? Does this tell us anything about Sal's mom?
Absolutely. It tells us she's not quite comfortable with who she is, or at least who people think she is. She feels like she has lost touch with her roots, her true self. Having people call her Chanhassen might be a way to get back in touch with those things.
There are, of course, all kinds of other revealing names in the book like Mrs. Cadaver and the Winterbottoms. What do these names tell you about the people who own them?