Study Guide

Number Two in The Mysterious Benedict Society

By Trenton Lee Stewart

Number Two

Number Two is another character whose real name we don't know, but not because she can't remember it (like Milligan) or because it just never gets used (like Mr. B's first name). The reason we don't know Number Two's name is because, as Rhonda explains, "She prefers we use her code name. […] She's shy about her real name. For no good reason, if you ask me. It's a perfectly fine name" (4.42).

That, of course, makes us wonder two things:

  • What's her real name? Sadly we don't get the answer to that one, at least not in this book.
  • And why is she called Number Two? This one, of course, is a no brainer. 

A Not So Subtle Code Name

When Reynie first sees her, she's described as "a thin woman in a mustard-yellow suit, with a yellowish complexion, short-cropped, rusty-red hair, and a stiff posture. She reminded Reynie of a giant walking pencil" (1. 41). Hence the code name.

But Number Two doesn't just look like a pencil—she acts like one, too. What do we mean? If you've ever watched a pencil closely, you know that they are very rigid and exacting. They pay close attention to details, they work hard to accomplish whatever task they've been assigned, and they never sleep—or if they do, we can't tell, because their sleeping and waking states are pretty much identical.

What's Her Point (Get it? Point? Like a Pencil?)

Okay, we're being a little silly—but if a pencil had a personality, it would behave just like Number Two. We're sure of it. But Number Two isn't in the book just to represent pencils. She's there for a few other reasons. Comic relief is one of them, for sure. Her first scenes in the book—when she's administering the tests—give us lots of reasons to grin: her odd eating habits, the runaround she gives Reynie regarding Miss Perumal, and the way she flees from rooms after giving the test results, to name a few.

But aside from the comical aspects of her personality, Number Two also gives us another example of a kind and responsible adult (and formerly ignored child/orphan) who not only respects Reynie and the other MBSers, but also demonstrates that there is a route to success and acceptance for children who don't necessarily conform to the dictates of mainstream society.

In English, Please?

That was a bit of a mouthful, right? What we mean is that kids like Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance, who aren't necessarily "typical" and may even get picked on for being different in childhood, can find a place where they belong without giving in to peer pressure.

Like Number Two (who's definitely a weird one, even by MBS standards), they can be successful in life without acting just like everyone else. In fact, it's the not acting like everyone else that will make them successful, because sometimes finding what makes you different is the same thing as finding what makes you special.

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