Study Guide

Where'd You Go, Bernadette Man and the Natural World

By Maria Semple

Man and the Natural World

Think a Chicago winter is cold? Just get a load of Antarctica. This brutal, uncompromising continent has killed many an intrepid explorer, yet teenage Bee Branch can't think of a better locale to celebrate her graduation from middle school. As it turns out, this adventure to the South Pole is exactly the kick in the pants she and her dysfunctional family needs, not only serving as a powerful coming-of-age experience for our young heroine, but also helping her mom emerge victorious from a decade-plus long battle with depression.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. Why is Bee so interested in going to Antarctica in the first place? 
  2. What are some different things that Antarctica represent throughout the novel? Are any of these things contradictory? 
  3. In what ways do Elgin, Bee, and Bernadette differ in their reactions to Antarctica? 
  4. Is the family getting an "authentic" Antarctic experience on the cruise liner? Why or why not?

Chew on This

For Bernadette, Antarctica provides an immense sense of solitude that allows hers to become anxiety-free for the first time in a long time.

For Bee, Antarctica is a new adventure, which makes sense for her given that she's about to go on the new adventure of high school.

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