Study Guide

Dancing on the Edge Tone

By Han Nolan

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Bleak, Mysterious, Redemptive

You've probably figured this out by now, but most of Miracle's story isn't exactly warm and fuzzy. Probably the bleakest aspect of the novel is that it's about a girl who has to hurt herself in order to know she's alive. Miracle slams her body around during dance class so she can see the bruises on her body and know she's real, and the ultimate goal of setting herself on fire is, er, "to see if [she were] real" (28.23). While we don't get many graphic descriptions of Miracle's physical injuries, the portrayal of her emotional anguish draws us into her pain in a very personal way.

There's also an element of mystery to the book. Throughout the story, the uncertainty builds in readers' minds as it becomes clear that there's more to events than what Miracle is being told. Most of this mysterious tone is created through the fights Miracle observes between members of her family, such as Gigi and Granddaddy Opal. For instance:

Even though no one said Dane's name, I knew somehow that's what all the fighting was about, because every time they fought, Dane was there. (6.5)

This brings a lot of questions to mind about why they're fighting about Dane and what went wrong in their marriage to begin with. But like Miracle, we never know, putting readers on the same shaky ground our main girl stands on.

Ultimately, the uneasy tone the book creates is resolved in the redemption of Miracle's character. While the language throughout most of the book reflects her insecure and unsure state, this changes dramatically once she recalls the incident with the fire and chooses to stop believing in Gigi. The descriptions of her emotional state in particular reflect the freedom Miracle has won simply through their word choice. She says of being rid of Gigi:

I felt so free and light […] I just knew if I stood up and did a leap I would leap clear over the tops of the buses and the tops of the trees and I wouldn't come down for a long, long time. (30.1)

As Miracle finds her own magic, the tone of the book takes on a decidedly happier—one might even say lighter—tone.

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