Study Guide

Where'd You Go, Bernadette Antarctica

By Maria Semple

Antarctica

It's no tropical paradise, but Antarctica is the perfect place for some emotional R&R. Just take it from Bernadette Branch and her daughter Bee.

Chill

We can't pretend it's a friendly place, though. It's freezing. It's windy. And it's downright boring. You might have visions of cute penguins dancing around her head, but that's a far cry from the reality of sitting inside your room and bingeing Marvel movies on Netflix. As Bee says, "if Antarctica could talk, it would be saying only one thing: you don't belong here" (6.213).

Here's the thing: this uncompromising natural environment has a way of forcing introspection. For Bee, it helps her come to terms with the idea that Bernadette is gone for good, which is an important step, even if she does end up finding her, like, two minutes later.

Cryotherapy

The effects are even more profound for Bernie dearest. Having long struggled with depression, Bernadette find the solitude of Antarctica therapeutic. Here's a great example:

I kept my head down, strayed in my room, and slept, but, mainly, I was. No racing heart, no flying thoughts (7.24)

Her mental health problems might not be resolved, but our heroine is well on the road to recovery. What's more, Antarctica helps her rediscover her passion for architecture, and she somehow scores a gig designing a scientific station. This is perfect for her given her stylistic embrace of green architecture and the use of minimal materials...both necessities in Antarctica.

So there you have it. Next time you have an important life crisis to overcome, just book a one-way-ticket to the land of the penguins. Might even help you find a job.

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