Study Guide

Mabel in In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson

By Bette Bao Lord

Mabel

She's So Mean

Mabel is the big bad bully of the fifth grade. No one wants to get in Mabel's way, but that's exactly what Shirley does. When Shirley's moping out of the classroom, she runs—literally—into Mabel, who curses her out. Mabel isn't used to having anyone stand up to her. She's the head chick in charge, so she socks Shirley one in each eye. Even when Shirley's parents drag her into the police station, Mabel's there, too, intimidating her and giving Shirley the eye to not rat her out: Shirley opened her mouth then quickly thought better of speaking, and just shook her head. No matter how long the sentence, on the day of her release Mabel, as surely as tigers devour flesh, would still be around. Around to get revenge if Shirley Temple Wong dropped even the tiniest hint of what happened that afternoon. (5.42) Mabel never lets up her tough girl game. She intimidates others to get what she wants, which is to stay out of trouble. In short, she might only be in fifth grade, but she's one seriously tough cookie.

I'll Be There For You

Every rose has its thorn, but it's still a rose, and Mabel is no exception. She might be rough and tough when Shirley first meets her, but it's covering up a sweet side underneath. Once Shirley earns her respect, Mabel reaches out and befriends her (5.48). And she doesn't stop there. Nope, Mabel then forces everyone else to accept Shirley. And though she does it using her favorite tool—a.k.a. bullying—(she says still like, "'You, Spaghetti Snit? You, Kosher Creep? You, Damp Drawers? You, Brown Blubber? You, Dog Breath? You, Puerto Rican Coconut?'" (5.72-77)), her intentions are overall good. Plus, it works. Mabel gets everyone to include Shirley, which makes a world of difference in her experience in America. It might seem strange, but in this way, Shirley's got plenty to thank Mabel for.

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