Study Guide

Uncle Ob in Missing May

By Cynthia Rylant

Uncle Ob

A Mourning Husband

Uncle Ob is a good man, but when we meet him in the book he's kind of a downer. May, the love of his life, has just died and he doesn't know what to do with himself. He's supposed to be taking care of Summer, but he's feeling pretty adrift:

I thought of Ob, this particular cold morning, not even bothering to fix his usual cup of cocoa when he got out of bed. He made sure I was up, and had my lunch fixed, and was out the door on time. But he didn't have his cocoa. (4.21)

Even though Summer knows that Uncle Ob is trying to take care of her, she's worried that he won't be able to keep it up. Uncle Ob gets so lost in his grief sometimes that she's afraid he'll just simply die in order to go join Aunt May—he loves his wife that much. It's easier for him to imagine dying and going off to be with her than living on with the grief.

A Father Figure

Despite the fact that he's an old man, Uncle Ob has served as a pretty solid father figure to little Summer. He's the one who declares that they have to snatch her up when they see her after noticing that she's too scared to even ask for a glass of milk. From there on out, he takes care of her as though she's his own child, including picking up all the food that she needs at the store and walking her to the bus stop when she's a little girl.

When Aunt May dies, Summer's afraid that she's going to lose her father figure and that Uncle Ob will just waste away—she's afraid that he doesn't love her enough to stick around in this life. But by the end we see that Uncle Ob comes back to life and recommits himself to taking care of Summer:

And while I stood in front of a beautiful window, looking out at the capitol lawn with its pigeons and squirrels and pretty women walking together and laughing, Ob would stand beside me and rest his palm against the back of my head as he used to when I was a little girl. (11.10)

He may be an old man in the midst of grieving, but he's still a father. And he's going to do what it takes to carry out his role.

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