Study Guide

Turtle Curry in Turtle in Paradise

By Jennifer L. Holm

Advertisement - Guide continues below

Turtle Curry

Our eleven-year-old heroine has a unique name and perspective to boot. She's sick of people believing in happy endings and the lies that Hollywood sells—her mom might buy that stuff, but Turtle knows better. She's cynical, judgmental, and won't let anyone tell her that life is like the movies. In fact, she thinks it's like a cartoon:

Me? I think life's more like that cartoon by Mr. Disney—The Three Little Pigs. Some big bad wolf's always trying to blow down your house. (1.56)

For Turtle, life is rough, which she makes pretty clear in this passage by comparing it to a wolf trying to knock her house down. And with a single mom who struggles to make ends meet, plus no home of her own, it's no wonder Turtle doesn't believe in happy endings.

Hard Shell

In short, Turtle's got a hard shell. That's where her name comes from, and it couldn't suit her better. She's not swayed by popular opinion or get-rich quick schemes, and instead she's a realist. As Turtle herself explains it:

Mama has soft blue eyes, and all she sees is kittens and roses. My eyes are gray as soot, and I see things for what they are. (2.38)

We can't help but wonder if Turtle is tough and pessimistic because her mom is so glass-half-full all the time—after all, someone has to be realistic in their household, and that job usually falls on Turtle's shoulders, at least emotionally-speaking. She knows that her mom is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when it comes to dealing with men and the improvements she thinks they can bring to her life, so Turtle acts more realistically to balance this out. She's helped her mom through enough heartbreak and loneliness to learn to be cynical when it comes to the world.

When Archie leaves them, Turtle describes the pain of telling her mom as worse than her own sadness that he's gone. She says her mom "whirls around, her face anguished, and collapses right in the middle of the muddy lane, tears running down her face" (18.74). Notice how she's focusing on how her mom feels instead of how she does? That's because Turtle's had to pick up the pieces for her mom in the past, and this time is no different: As her mom turns to mush, Turtle's got to be hard-shelled.

Even though Turtle needs to be tough with her mom, sometimes she takes this pessimistic attitude a little too far. For example, she thinks all kids are downright evil. Check out what she says about her peers:

I've lived long enough to know the truth: kids are rotten. (1.1)

Now we know that can't be true of every single kid out there—and chances are, Turtle knows it, too. Heck, we might even go so far as to say that Turtle thinks a bit more highly of herself. She just acts like kids are lying, cheating weasels so she can protect herself from getting hurt the way she's seen her mom be over and over again.

Defiant Diva

One place Turtle's pessimism comes in handy, though, is in dealing with her grandma. Sure the old gal is cruel and stubborn, but Turtle gives her a run for her money. At first, she imagines getting to know her grandma and becoming best friends, but pretty soon, that dream is shattered… along with a bowl of milk toast. Turtle is upset that her own grandma would be so mean to her, but she doesn't dwell on it.

Even though she doesn't get why the old lady is mean to her, she stands up for herself. So after her grandma repeatedly spills the food Turtle serves her on purpose, Turtle sits down and does the following:

"This is delicious," I say, and smile. "Shame you spilled yours." I swear I can see her mouth watering. (11.43)

Pretty awesome, right? We're not sure we'd have the hutzpah to check out grandmas the way Turtle does. It's as if Turtle's showing her grandma that she's not afraid of her, instead of merely telling her. And you know what? Eventually it works. Like Turtle, it seems like maybe Nana Philly's toughness is only skin deep.

Take That, Shirley Temple

If there's one thing Turtle's got an opinion about, it's Shirley Temple. She hates that chick with a vengeance. Why? Shirley represents everything that's wrong with Hollywood. Real kids don't sing and dance and look perfect all the time, but Shirley Temple does. Plus, it bugs Turtle how everyone loves the little actress so much. According to Turtle, she's nothing special.

Her angst toward Shirley Temple is more about her outlook on life than anything else, though. Turtle's cynical whereas everyone who loves the starlet's movies believes in a perfect life that just doesn't exist. (Fun fact: We've got more to say on this over in the "Symbols" section.) Yet, we can't help but notice that Turtle still dreams of a happy ending—though she says she knows it doesn't exist, that doesn't stop her from wanting it more than anything else. So maybe Turtle's not as cynical as we thought.

It's too bad for Turtle that she never gets that Hollywood ending. She is conned and left high and dry by the end, though this epic disappointment also enables her to realize what's really important. And guess what? Just like Turtle's always known, it's not Hollywood or starlets. But to her surprise, it also isn't a dream house. She tells us:

Maybe the real treasure has been right here on Curry Lane the whole time—people who love Mama and me. A home. (18.89)

Home is where the heart is, and Turtle finally gets one. It might not be a happy ending fit for the silver screen, but we're hard-pressed to say it isn't happy in its own right—and Turtle is, too.

Turtle Curry in Turtle in Paradise Study Group

Ask questions, get answers, and discuss with others.

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

This is a premium product

Please Wait...