Study Guide

M.C. Higgins, the Great Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

By Virginia Hamilton

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Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

Will it really be mind—this mountain? Daddy says it will one day.

He loved the mountain, its long, lingering dawns. But he frowned, squinting off at the hills with night still huddled in their folds.

Now it won't ever be mine. (1.8-10)

M.C.'s showing how conflicted he is about the mountain, which, on one hand, he hopes will be his one day because he loves it, while on the other hand he recognizes that this dream is seriously jeopardized. We know, of course, that it has to do with how dangerous the mountain is from the rest of the book. But at this point in the novel, that author is already setting M.C. up as realistic — definitely not happy-to-go-lucky. He's not one to hide his head in the sand, so to speak.

The idea had come to him after he heard about the Dude. Two days ago, greeting the sunrise, there it began in his mind, growing and growing with each new ray of light.

Dude going to make Mama a star singer like Sister Baby on the radio, M.C. thought. We'll have to travel with her—won't that be something? But Mama is better than Sister Baby. He'll make her the best anybody ever heard. (1.21-22)

M.C.'s just coming up with the big plan he has for getting off the mountain. The Dude—James K. Lewis, as we later find out—will record Banina and turn her into a star. We know, of course, that this hope never pans out, but at this point, it sounds like M.C.'s really onto something. The sunrise inspires him and the idea grows as the rays grow… it's the perfect way for an idea to come into being. No wonder M.C.'s so into his plan.

He had nightmares in which the heap came tumbling down. Over and over again, it buried his family on the side of the mountain.

But his dreams hadn't come true. The spoil heap didn't fall. Slowly his nightmares had ceased and his fear faded within. But then something would remind him, like the chance to get off the mountainside with the Dude's coming. Like Ben's father acting the fool. M.C. would get edgy in a second. (1.100-101)

There are dreams that make you feel all sparkly inside, and then there are nightmares so powerful they haunt you even in daylight. In M.C.'s case, his nightmares actually spur his hopes and plans. They are what make him face reality and want to leave Sarah's Mountain despite his love for the place.

And for a fleeting moment he pretended: Mama and Daddy in the ground, he told himself. Dead a long time. That's not so bad. They lived to be each a hundred. The kids, grown old, too, and died. I lived longer than each of them. I'm old now but I can still get around. Never did leave the mountain. None of the others did, either. But buried here. Ghosts. Just like Great-grandmother Sarah and the other old ones who really did pass away long ago. (2.8)

M.C. has some pretty morbid daydreams, but then, if we heard and felt the ghosts of our ancestors like M.C. apparently does, then maybe we wouldn't think the daydream is all that morbid. In fact, for M.C. this is a good dream because it shows his desire to stay on the mountain and keep his family around him (even if they're dead and buried).

"Hope that girl gets lost." He studied the hills, but could see no one, not even a glint. "Then I'll have to find her and lead her by the hand." Smugly he turned his face to the sky and swung his gleaming pole into the stifling air. (2.296)

Usually M.C. dreams some pretty big plans, but when it comes to girls, he hopes for something as simple as getting the chance to "find her and lead her by the hand." Why are his hopes so much smaller and simpler when it comes to girls?

"After he takes her voice out," M.C. said finally. "When he sends for her, she goes. When the records are made and you hear them on the radio." Wide-eyed, the children stared at him. "We'll leave here, too," he said.

He didn't mention they would leave their father behind, that they would live without him. (6.57-58)

We think it's pretty interesting how M.C. is willing to leave his father behind when he's planning their escape from the mountain. It's not an easy thing for him to come to; he definitely does try to convince his father to leave the mountain. But the way the kids look up to him and the way he's already planning a life for the family without his father makes it seem like M.C. wouldn't mind being the head honcho of the family.

"You don't want to make some records?" he said.

"Well, if the Dude made it easy," she said. She hesitated. "Don't dream too hard."

"It's no dream that we have to leave," M.C. said.

She commenced to walk more quickly. "You live wide awake," she said, "or you quit living." (7.73-76)

What does it mean to "live wide awake"? Is Banina the more realistic one, the one who tells M.C. not to "dream too hard" about her becoming a famous singer? Or is M.C. the more "wide awake" one, the one who knows the mountain is dangerous and they can't stay? Or are both of them both "wide awake" and dreaming?

Not a word.

His insides churned.

There was no tent.

Not a good-bye.

Lurhetta Outlaw had disappeared without a trace.

She didn't have to go like that. (14.71-76)

Nothing says dashed dreams like an empty campground, the girl of your dreams gone, and short sentences barren of emotion.

He didn't look at M.C., but down in front of him. "M.C., I can't sell your mother's voice. I never sell nothing much." Everything seemed to sink and perish inside of M.C.

"Then why are you here?" he managed to say. He sat down on the path and pulled weeds up by the root. "You come so far and you won't even try," he muttered. Tears stung his eyes but he wouldn't cry. (13.71-72)

It was kind of an unlikely dream of M.C.'s from the very beginning, and that reality finally catches up to M.C. isn't surprising; it does, however, highlight how truly young and innocent M.C. is for most of the book. His worries may be adult, but his dreams are those of a true thirteen-year-old.

There began to take shape a long, firm kind of mound. The children fed it. M.C. shoveled and Ben packed it. In the immense quiet of Sarah's Mountain late in the day, they formed a wall. And it was rising. (14.237)

M.C. isn't dreaming anymore—heck, he isn't even planning or hoping. He's building. It's action over and above thoughts and visions.

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