Study Guide

The Mysterious Benedict Society Community

By Trenton Lee Stewart

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Standing there in the lamplit room, reflecting upon Sticky's life as he slept, Reynie experienced a curious mixture of admiration, affection, and sympathy—curious because although he'd known the boy for only a day, it seemed as if they'd been friends for ages. And Kate, too, he reflected. He was already quite fond of her. (5.21)

Kate, Reynie, and Sticky seem to bond pretty quickly, which is nice. Constance, on the other hand, well… she's more of an acquired taste, but as Mr. B points out, still an essential part of the team. And that sometimes is the hardest part of teamwork: getting along with everyone and making sure everyone plays a valuable role.

"You are a team now. Whether you always agree is inconsequential, but you must take care of one another, must rely upon one another in all things. I don't exaggerate when I say that every one of you is essential to the success of the team, and indeed, to the fate of us all." (7.21)

It's a good thing that Mr. Benedict says this, and that he says it more than once. Know why? Constance. For much of the adventure, she seems like dead weight—dead weight that makes snide comments. But if they had just chucked her aside, they may have failed in the end. The lesson? Everyone has something to offer. Yes, even that two-year-old with the attitude.

Before long they were all chuckling. The danger was past, and somehow the excitement had helped them shed a little of their anxiety. Glancing at one another with satisfied smiles (as if to say, "We did it, didn't we? Together we did it!") they rose and dusted themselves off. (11.9)

This is right after the team bands together—quite literally—to keep Sticky from falling into the pit beneath the drapeweed. They're pretty happy with their success, and with good reason. It's the first time they've tackled a problem as a team and together they managed something that none of them could have done alone. Plus no one was seriously injured, and that's always a good feeling.

As is always the case with a society, some arguing remained to be done. (12.80)

There's actually a phrase describing how teams form that Constance would probably enjoy. Ready? Here it is: forming, storming, norming, and performing. And when the kids argue about how to proceed, they're in the storming phase. That's when, after a team or group has formed, people disagree about how it should work and there's conflict. Lots of people think that conflict is a bad thing, but the storming phase? It's actually necessary. Without the storming, the team can't get into norming, which is when they agree about how things will proceed, and then performing, which is making things happen. So the storming is typical, and yes, Constance is really good at it.

"[…] I'm to give you a message from Mr. Benedict. […] He said to remind you that every single one of you is essential to the success of the team—that now more than ever, you must rely upon one another in all things." (29.99-103)

See? He says it once, he says it twice, he sneaks it into Morse code messages—Mr. B is pretty big on this team thing, and in the end we realize he's absolutely right. The mission couldn't have been accomplished without the whole team. Maybe Mr. Curtain will take a lesson from his identical twin and welcome some folks to be fully included and respected members of his team in the future. Maybe…

[Kate had] had grand visions of sabotaging the Whisperer, destroying its computers all by herself. Ripping out cables, crushing components, stealing mysterious gizmos that could not be replaced. Not only would she be regarded as a hero, she would prove once and for all that she could do everything alone—that she needed no one's help. But now she saw she could do no such thing. Not this time. (31.16)

And you know, it actually depresses her a bit. The next time the kids are all in the cafeteria trying to come up with a plan, she's still beating herself up for not having destroyed the Whisperer on her own. That's because Kate is used to doing things herself, and she's used to being successful—so failing to do what she set out to do has thrown her for a loop.

But that's a good thing. It forces Kate to finally come to terms with the fact that sometimes—sometimes—she needs to rely on others, and that doesn't make her weak. In fact, with the other three MBSers watching her back, she's probably a lot stronger.

"I was thinking maybe if we faced Mr. Curtain and his Whisperer <em>together</em>, we could figure out what to do." (32.81)

Up until this point, the kids had been thinking that maybe Reynie and Sticky could foil Mr. C's plans when they got into the Whispering Gallery, or that maybe Kate could sneak in and smash the computers, or that maybe Constance… well, we don't think anyone ever really thought Constance would be the one to disable the Whisperer, but the point is, this is the first time someone has suggested that the only way to beat Mr. Curtain is for all of them to face him together.

There's strength in numbers, after all. Plus there's the fact that each of the children has different strengths, and having them all assembled in one room can't hurt.

With perfect clarity he remembered Reynie saying, "I need you here as a friend." The effect of those words, and of all his friendships, had grown stronger and stronger, until [… Sticky] knew it to be true. There was bravery in him. It only had to be drawn out. (34.92)

Go, Sticky, go. This is one of those awesome moments in the book when, if you're anything like Shmoop, you may find yourself with a little sniffle or a sudden need for a tissue. Having community in his life—solid friends who depend on him and believe in him—makes a huge difference for Sticky. It helps him to find his confidence and it helps him to persevere at a time when, if there was no one in his corner, he might be inclined to give up.

It occurred to Kate to leave [Constance] behind. […] The plan had called for all four of them. That was what Mr. Benedict had said mattered most, and it was what they'd agreed upon only yesterday. […] No way would she be the one to mess it up. (35.13)

Even at this point Kate isn't sure how Constance's presence could possibly be helpful. She just knows that they're a team and that it's all for one and one for all. And you know what? That's enough. Sometimes it doesn't matter why you do the right thing—it only matters that you do it.

Let us begin, the Whisperer repeated, more insistently.

Not just yet
, Reynie thought.

Let us begin

First let me polish my spectacles
,Reynie thought.

Let us begin

Not without my bucket
, Reynie insisted.


Let us begin, let us begin, let us begin.

Rules and schools are tools for fools
, Reynie thought. (36.46-54)

Um yeah… another tissue worthy scene. There are a few of those in these last chapters, and this is one of the best—this and the scene just a few pages later when Constance jumps into the chair and pulls a similar routine (with a bit more 'tude).

What we love about both of those moments is that both Reynie (here) and Constance (37.72-82) call upon their friendships to increase their strength and resist the Whisperer. It's beautiful, and it's funny, and it's great teamwork. If Mr. Curtain had anyone to fall back on, maybe he would have lasted a little longer—but there is definitely no curtain in team.

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