Study Guide

The One and Only Ivan Three-Act Plot Analysis

By Katherine Applegate

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Three-Act Plot Analysis

Act I

Ivan expresses his thoughts about his own dual nature, that he experiences life as a gorilla who is part human. While it is fascinating that he has membership in each club, he is denied the perks of either. From his unusual living arrangements, his love for art, and his distaste for humans and chimps, Ivan shares a lot of intimate details about himself, unveiling a conflicted soul who has made the best of his circumstances, despite the obvious toll its taken on him.

The moral support Ivan and his elephant friend Stella offer each other eases the pain of their unnatural lives as indentured servants whose jobs are to attract and please crowds at a no-longer thriving mall. Ivan and Stella, both past their prime, are each awakened by the relationships they form with the new baby elephant Ruby, who is brought in to attract more customers. Ivan and Stella see that business might pick up, but at what cost?

Act II

Stella has been bullied by humans all of her life, forced to perform tricks that have slowly destroyed her body and weakened her spirit. A recurring infection in her leg returns with a vengeance and prevents her from performing in the daily shows. Ruby is next in line for the job, but she's not as compliant as Stella was. As Stella is dying, Ivan promises her that he can save Ruby from the pain and suffering of circus life and find her a better place to live. Okay, but how's that going to work?

Despite his powerful nature and inherent need to protect the little people, Ivan is short on confidence and has never been the type to step up and take a stand against the man. But hey, change can happen, and being a mighty silverback and all, Ivan is poised for glory. All he needs now is a plan. By the end of Act II, he's hatched one, and pulls a series of all-nighters preparing for the battle.


For Ivan's strategic plan to get Ruby moved to a zoo to work, he must communicate a message to the people. First stop Julia, who helps by convincing her dad that in all this new artwork Ivan has produced, he is trying to tell them something. She solves the word and picture puzzle and discovers the word home spelled out in Ivan's drawings. She realizes that Ivan wants Ruby to be home, as in with her peeps, at a zoo.

George is fired for posting Ivan's artwork in the parking lot, which draws media attention, protestors, and finally, closure at the mall. Both Ivan and Ruby are transported to a zoo to live amongst their own kind. Ivan's reintroduction to gorilla life after twenty-seven years in solitary isn't a piece of cake, but he's up for the challenge and happy he's succeeded in keeping his word to Stella. Ivan gets his bearings and retires into the gorilla corner of the zoo, with Ruby just a hop skip and an elephant jump away.

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