From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler Freedom and Confinement
By E.L. Konigsburg
Freedom and Confinement
"She was the oldest child and the only girl and was subject to a lot of injustice." (1.4)
If you ask Claudia, it's really, really, insanely hard to be subjected to stuff like chores, and being an older sister to Kevin (who's a real brat). In fact, it's a form of slavery, since she gets the least allowance out of all her classmates. Our girl is emptying wastebaskets for mere nickels! The travesty!
"O.K., Claude, when do we bust out of here? And how?" (1.31)
For the past few minutes, they had forgotten that they were stowaways on the school bus and had behaved as they always did at home. (2.42)
Even if they escape the place that confines them, Claudia and Jamie still have to work to break free of their mindsets and behaviors that chain them to the same old interactions and arguments. They have to be a team in order to break free.
"Manning their stations" meant climbing back into the booths and waiting during the perilous time when the museum was open to the staff but not to visitors. (4.6)
It's funny—Claudia and Jamie ran away from home only to be stuck in a place where they have to hide all the time. Hiding may be a part of the whole fugitive lifestyle, but is being locked up in a museum at night really necessary?
"I still say it's too bad we can't touch her," Claudia complained. (6.8)
Even in this world that she's run away to, Claudia can't do everything she wants. Seriously, what's with all these rules, anyway? You're supposed to be able to eat all the ice cream you want, act like a monkey, and say every curse word in your head when you run away from home!
Footsteps from the Italian Renaissance were descending upon them! The guard was coming down the steps. Oh, boloney! thought Jamie. There was just too much time before the museum opened on Sundays. (6.15)
Claudia and Jamie are like little mice hiding from a cat during their time at the museum. They may have run away to be free of all those silly rules at home and school, but they're still subjected to the rules of an authority—the museum hours.
"Going home without knowing about Angel for sure will be the same as going home from camp. It won't be any different. After one day, maybe two, we'll be back to the same old thing. And I didn't run away to come home the same." (6.76)
Claudia's main goal is that she's not going to feel the same when she goes home. She doesn't want to return to the same life she had before, feeling trapped and confined by her circumstances. She wants to be a superstar, free to make her own decisions (and dazzle everyone else, of course).
"I have half a mind to join that group and go back with them and just be mysterious about where I came from." (7.42)
Yeah right—as if Jamie actually wants to go back to school and be stuck in the same old routine again. He's totally bluffing (he's a card player, after all), and Claudia knows it.
"And the more plans you made, the more it became like living at home away from home," I interrupted.
"That's true," she said. "But we did enjoy living away from home in a mild kind of way." (9.138-139)
Even though living at the museum isn't that different from living at home in terms of those endless chores (they have to do their own laundry!) and the rules, Claudia is quick to make the distinction that it was different. It was different because they chose to do all those things, and were free to make their own choices.
"First it was hiding. Not being discovered. And after hiding became easy, there was Angel. Somehow, Angel became more important than running away." (9.145)
The thing that really sets them free in the end is the secret with the angel. Instead of returning to their captors, they feel like they're coming back different people, with a secret tucked safe inside. Claudia and Jamie have all the freedom in the world, even if no one else can tell.