Study Guide

A Long Way from Chicago Time

By Richard Peck

Time

Prologue

As the years went by, though, Mary Alice and I grew up, and though Grandma never changed, we'd seem to see a different woman every summer. (P.1)

Grandma stays the same each summer, but Joey and Mary Alice start to see her differently because they're changing and growing up as time goes by…and their view of the world shifts as this happens.

Chapter 3

I had a sudden thought. Aunt Puss thought Grandma and Mary Alice and I were all about the same age. She hadn't noticed the years passing. That's why Grandma didn't say we were her grandkids. It would have just mixed up Aunt Puss. (3.132)

Time stands still in Aunt Puss's mind, and she still believes that Grandma Dowdel is just a young girl. There's no point in setting her straight because it would only make things more confusing for her; it's easier to just let her think that they're all still young.

Chapter 4

She glared, daring us to pay her a compliment. But the cat had our tongues. Mary Alice stared up at her, transfixed. Was she seeing herself fifty years hence? (4.45)

It's bizarre to see Grandma Dowdel all dressed up, and it's clear that Mary Alice is particularly amazed. Maybe that's how she'll look after time has taken its toll on her.

Chapter 6

When we got down off the train, Grandma was there on the platform. After our first visit she'd never met us at the train, figuring we could find our own way. But here she was, under her webby old black umbrella to shade her from the sun. (6.1)

It's rather surprising to see Grandma Dowdel at the train station because as time has passed, she's begun to trust the kids to find their way to her house on their own. But she's not there for them…she's there to see Effie Wilcox.

Mary Alice Dowdel

"But, Joey, who was it sent to?" Mary Alice wondered.

"Grandma, I guess."

"She got valentines?" Mary Alice and I stared at each other. (6.63-65)

The thought of Grandma Dowdel ever being someone's valentine is completely unbelievable to both Joey and Mary Alice. Was she ever young enough to be someone's sweetheart?

Chapter 7

We both assumed an air of weary worldliness as we climbed down off the Wabash Blue Bird one last time. But the train hadn't pulled out before we noticed a difference.

The depot was swagged in red, white, and blue bunting. (7.2-3)

On the last summer that Joey and Mary Alice spend a week with their grandmother, they're both so jaded—since they're teenagers now. But they're not the only ones who have changed over time; the town has made some updates, too.

"You give me a turn," she said. She put her hand out to us and took it back. "I thought it was me and Dowdel on our wedding day." (7.54)

When Joey and Mary Alice step out in the old clothes that they found in the attic, it shocks Grandma Dowdel. She feels as though they've gone back in time because that's what she and her husband looked like on their wedding day.

We both sighed. We were still kids, so we liked everything to stay the same. Now the whole town seemed to be up to something. (7.6)

Joey and Mary Alice aren't particularly delighted to see the town all decorated for the Centennial Celebration. Grandma's town should always stay exactly the same no matter what year it is.

Grandma Dowdel

"It's the Centennial Celebration," Grandma said. "We're all going back to the old days and the old ways for a week."

"Grandma," I said, "you never gave up any of the old ways." (7.17-18)

The idea of going back to the "old ways" for a week is laughable because Grandma Dowdel already lives as though they're in the midst of the "old days." Still, the kids play along with the whole charade.

Chapter 8

The years went by, and Mary Alice and I grew up, slower than we wanted to, faster than we realized. Another war came, World War II, and I wanted to get in it. The war looked like my chance to realize my old dream of flying. (8.1)

As the years pass, Joey and Mary Alice grow up, but that's not all…the world around them grows up, too. Before they can even process it, they're out of the Great Depression and going into World War II.

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