Study Guide

Gypsy Arbutus Leemaster in Belle Prater's Boy

By Ruth White

Gypsy Arbutus Leemaster

Hey, Pretty Lady

Gypsy is well known around Coal Station for being pretty, just like her mama. But as nice as it is to get compliments all the time, it becomes a little frustrating when all people talk about is Gypsy's loveliness and her gorgeous, long hair:

"Oh, Gypsy, you're so awfully beautiful!"

These were Woodrow's words the next morning when he first saw me all dressed up for Sunday school. He was on Granny's front porch, reading the Sunday paper, which he dropped when he saw me coming. (6.1-2)

But Gypsy's outward appearance isn't always a good thing for her. In fact, it becomes a bit of a burden, especially all that hair that she has to spend hours washing and brushing every single week. More than anything, though, Gypsy hates that her physical beauty is all people seem to care about:

"But that's not all," I continued. "Sometimes… sometimes, Woodrow, I feel invisible. Like maybe under all this hair nobody can see me. They talk about my hair, but do they ever see what's underneath?" (6.89)

Gypsy doesn't want to just be known as the town's token pretty girl. She would like to be recognized for her talents and her intelligence, too, but this doesn't seem to be possible when everyone just marvels over her hair.

The Girl Who Has Everything

When Woodrow first comes to Coal Station, he's jealous of Gypsy because he thinks her life is super easy. To him, it appears that she has everything she could ever want:

"I used to think…" Woodrow went on. "Well, I was jealous of you because I thought you had it so easy. I thought… but I just didn't know how much you had been through… now you were hurt inside…" (20.11)

Gypsy is pretty, lives in a lovely house with her mother and stepfather, and has a seemingly dreamy life. But what Woodrow doesn't realize is that if you dig below the surface, underneath her happy, blessed exterior, Gypsy carries a lot of pain. She doesn't have everything after all. Not by a long shot.

A Deep, Dark Secret

See, even though Gypsy acts like everything is okay, she has a difficult past that she tries to bury. She constantly has these horrible nightmares that betray her tortured subconscious:

It was near dawn that the nightmare came. Just like the ones before it, there was an animal, limp and lifeless, in a puddle of blood. Was it a deer? A dog? A kitten? An ugly, ugly thing was in that animal's face. The ugly thing that I could not see. The ugly thing…

I woke up crying for my mother, and I didn't feel grown-up at all, nor did I want to be. (5.49-50)

Gypsy is plagued by terrible dreams because she can't stop thinking about her father's suicide—and how she found his body. For such a young girl, Gypsy has to deal with a tremendous emotional burden, so while she tries to pretend everything's cool, it's no wonder that discovering her father's suicide seeps into her subconscious when she sleeps. It is only when Gypsy is able to confront and talk about her father's death that she can start healing—with the help of everyone around her.

In the end, it's hard for Gypsy when Buzz exposes the truth about her father to her entire class. But at the same time, this is what prompts Gypsy to go home and cut all her hair off, a move that liberates her from being seen as simply a pretty face and leaves her feeling more in control of her appearance. Plus, once everyone knows the truth about Gypsy's dad, she no longer has to hold his death like a terrible secret. So is it hard for Gypsy to have her pristine façade shattered by Buzz? Absolutely. But ultimately, it's a major blessing in disguise.

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