Study Guide

Missing May Plot Analysis

By Cynthia Rylant

Plot Analysis

Exposition

Goodbye, Aunt May

When the book opens up, we find out that Summer (the narrator) has just lost her beloved Aunt May. Summer is very sad, but her Uncle Ob is faring even worse—he misses Aunt May so much that Summer worries that he'll just stop functioning. How are they ever going to get over the loss of Aunt May, who kept their little family unit together?

Rising Action

The Great Beyond

There's one thing that keeps Uncle Ob going, though: he's got this wild idea that there must be a way to communicate with Aunt May, even though she's dead. Summer's classmate Cletus (who's always popping by) fuels this hope by telling Uncle Ob that there's a spiritualist reverend in Putnam County who communes with the dead. Uncle Ob decides that they're all going on a little field trip together—they'll go to Putnam County, track down this medium, and talk to Aunt May. Good plan, right?

Climax

Seeking the Dead

Uncle Ob is invigorated by the idea of talking to Aunt May, and he starts planning the trip immediately, even asking Cletus's parents for permission to take him along. They head out on their first day of school break and make it all the way up to Putnam County, but when they get to the spiritualist church, they find out that the reverend has died. Oh no—how will they ever talk to Aunt May now? Uncle Ob is seriously disappointed, and Summer is afraid that he will never ever recover.

Falling Action

The Long Way Home

They start driving home because Uncle Ob is so disappointed, and he zips right past the capitol. But when they are back in town, he changes his mind and turns back around to take the kids to the capitol. It seems he's determined to carry on with his life after all, and even if he can't get in touch with May's spirit, he'll still keep chugging along. Though he doubted himself earlier, he now knows has the strength to do so after all. And so the whole gang goes to the capitol and explores all day—just like they had intended to.

Resolution

Finding Peace

When they all get home to the trailer, an owl suddenly flies overhead and reminds Summer of Aunt May. She starts crying—it's like all her grief is finally pouring forth and she can't help it. And she and Uncle Ob finally get to grieve properly. When Summer falls asleep she has a dream of Aunt May saying all sorts of loving things to her, and when she wakes up Uncle Ob is already up and making breakfast in the kitchen. He takes his whirligigs and puts them all up in the garden. They're going to keep moving on as a family after all.

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