Study Guide

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler Dissatisfaction

By E.L. Konigsburg


A reason that had to do with the sameness of each and every week. She was bored with simply being straight-A's Claudia Kinkaid. She was tired of arguing about whose turn it was to choose the Sunday night seven-thirty television show, of injustice, and of the monotony of everything. (1.4)

Talk about ennui. Though she's only twelve, Claudia is already tired and jaded about her entire life and the day-to-day sameness of all of it.

She was certain that her allowance was the smallest in her class. And most of the other sixth graders never lost part of their pay since they had full-time maids to do the chores instead of a cleaning lady only twice a week. (1.8)

Oh, the trials and tribulations of Claudia Kinkaid. The poor girl doesn't have a full-time maid at home (the travesty!) and makes a whole lot less allowance money, supposedly. Talk about first-world problems.

Claudia had always known that she was meant for such fine things. (3.52)

Claudia never claimed to be modest. After all, she's an elegant, refined, smart girl, so shouldn't she be living in extreme wealth, too?

This was all Claudia needed. Something that had been smoldering inside her since she first saw the statue, that had been fed by the Times article, now flared into an idea. (4.51)

With all of the boredom, the kids need something to snap them out of their funk. Running away helps, but the ball really starts rolling when they find out about the angel statue. Here's a mystery worth solving.

A nasty letter or a sarcastic one can make you righteously angry, but what can you really do about a polite letter of rejection? Nothing, really, except cry. So she did. (8.40)

Poor Claudia. She has such high hopes for their adventure and thinks that they're going to be paraded around by museum officials as heroes. Instead, she finds that reality falls short of her expectations (as always).

"I didn't say differently, I said different. I want to go back different. I, Claudia Kinkaid, want to be different when I go back. Like being a heroine is being different." (8.61)

What does it mean to be different? Do you have to grow a tail, or win a million dollars, or cut off your ear like van Gogh? Claudia hasn't figured out exactly what this is yet, but she wants to feel changed when she goes home.

"Can't you see how badly I need to find out about Angel?" (8.81)

For Claudia, finding Angel's secret isn't just a matter of solving a puzzle—it's something she needs to do for herself. This is what's going to make her different from everyone, and she can't let go of the opportunity.

"[If] I tell, then I know for sure that my adventure is over. And I don't want it to be over until I'm sure I've had enough." (9.155)

What's the saying? It's not over until the fat lady sings? Well, in this case, it's not over until the old lady gives up her secret. And until the little lady gets her dainty little hands on the proof that Michelangelo indeed was the artist behind the angel statue. But whew! That's too much of a mouthful for us.

"Secrets are the kind of adventure she needs. Secrets are safe, and they do much to make you different. On the inside where it counts." (9.235)

Mrs. Frankweiler totally gets where Claudia is coming from. They both know that learning a secret isn't about being able to go out and blab it to the first person you meet. Secrets change how you feel about yourself. They give you something special to hang onto.

"But there is one new thing that I'd like to experience. Not now. Experience. And that one thing is impossible." (9.252)

Mrs. Frankweiler may be a rich old lady with tons of nice things (that Claudia takes notice of right away), but that doesn't mean that she has everything she wants. She wants to be a mom, or at least to know what it feels like. Since Claudia and Jamie's mom has a few other kids on her hands, maybe she can just take this duo on as her brood.