Study Guide

A Year Down Yonder Foreignness and "The Other"

By Richard Peck

Foreignness and "The Other"

When Mary Alice Dowdel comes to live with her grandmother in A Year Down Yonder, she's an outsider in this small town. The other kids at school consider her a "Chicago girl," and snub her because they think she's a city slicker and full of herself—even though she's there because her parents are too poor to keep an apartment.

But there's one good thing that comes from being cast into a new environment. Mary Alice grows stronger and more confident as she's pushed outside of her comfort zone. And on top of that, she meets another outsider—a cute boy named Royce McNabb—who ends up being her sweetheart for life.

Questions About Foreignness and "The Other"

  1. Why do the other girls exclude Mary Alice when she joins their class?
  2. How does being an outsider work to Mary Alice's advantage?
  3. Does Mary Alice still consider herself an outsider in her grandmother's town by the end of the school year?
  4. Why do the pearl clutchers want to run Arnold Green out of town?

Chew on This

Every character considered an outsider by the townies in A Year Down Yonder winds up benefitting from that outsider status.

Although Mary Alice starts out feeling like she'll never be accepted into this small town, by the end, she's feels more at home in Grandma Dowdel's town than she ever did in Chicago.

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