Analysis: What's Up With the Title?
What does it mean to walk a moon? And two moons? Planet Earth only has one moon, right? What the heck is going on here? Does this mean we need moon boots?
Ever heard of that phrase, "to walk in someone else's shoes?" Well, that's what this book is all about. This is a story about learning to understand what someone is going through before you judge them.
But let's back up a bit. In Chapter 9, the Winterbottoms find a message on their doorstep that reads, "Don't judge a man until you've walked two moons in his moccasins" (9.28). They're stumped, but Sal knows what's up:
"I know what it means," I said. "I've heard my father use it lots of times. I used to imagine that there were two moons sitting in a pair of Indian shoes, but my father said it means that you shouldn't judge someone until you've walked in their moccasins. Until you've been in their shoes. In their place." (11.15)
Over the course of the story, Sal steps into a whole pile of moccasins. Eventually, she even walks in the shoes of her biggest enemy, Mrs. Cadaver, and discovers things beyond her wildest imagination. Upon hearing about the tragic death of Mrs. Cadaver's husband, Sal says, "I imagined Mrs. Cadaver touching her husband's face. It was as if I was walking in her moccasins, that's how much my own heart was pumping and my own hands were sweating" (33.28). Sal empathizes so much with Mrs. Cadaver at this moment, that her heart starts to race and her hands sweat. Walking in another person's moccasins sure does pack a punch.
Perhaps the most important moccasins that Sal slips on and strolls around in are those of her own mother. When she goes on that road trip with her grandparents, Sal is literally following in her mother's footsteps. They're on the same roads, visiting the same places, seeing the same sights. And over the course of that road trip (and perhaps even before), Sal learns much more about her mother than she ever expected. But in the end she also learns that there are some things about those we love that we can never really understand, no matter how much we try to wear those shoes.
Why Two Moons?
We also think it's important to consider that this title is Walk Two Moons and not Walk in Someone Else's Shoes. First of all, the phrase, "walk two moons," is kind of a peculiar one that makes us think twice about what it could possibly mean. It's not something you hear every day, right? In fact, it's hardly even a sentence. We humans are only used to having one moon around, so the idea of two moons makes us feel like this might be a story about something magical, fantastical, or extraordinary.
Of course we come to learn the true meaning of the phrase, and we can guess that "two moons" means "two months." Moons wax and wane just like human beings do. Usually we have one full moon every month, and so if we were going to walk for two moons, that probably means we'll be walking for two months.
The fact that "moons" show up in this title hints at the fact that nature is going to be big part of this story. With all their waxing and waning, moons are symbolic of the cycles of life, both in nature, and in humans. Could we could take this a step further and suggest that in order to understand someone else fully, in order to walk in their shoes, you have to be connected to nature in some way? We think it's possible, but then again, Shmoop could be totally off our rocker.
All in all, Shmoop thinks this title is just about perfect. In a book where Sal struggles to understand all kinds of difficult things, the biggest challenge she faces is understanding and empathizing with those around her – her mom in particular. But now she knows that all you have to do is borrow a pair of moccasins and you'll be well on your way to empathy.