Study Guide

Wonder Tone

By R.J. Palacio

Tone

Wistful, Funny, Confessional

Wistful

When we meet Auggie, he's a pretty wistful little guy. He says:

If I found a magic lamp and I would have one wish, I would wish that I had a normal face that no one ever noticed at all. I would wish that I could walk down the street without people seeing me and then doing that look-away thing. (1.Ordinary.2)

Hmm. When someone's big wish is simply to be ordinary, it's a strong tipoff that he is anything but. In Auggie's case, he has a serious facial difference—and he wishes all the time that he didn't.

Auggie thinks about going to school now that he's stronger and more medically stable. Holding him back is the feeling that "What I wanted was to go to school, but only if I could be like every other kid going to school. Have lots of friends and hang out after school and stuff like that" (1.Why I Didn't Go To School.3). But he knows this won't actually happen, and as the story unfolds, we witness a number of painful moments when Auggie wishes the opposite were true.

Funny

From the very beginning of Auggie's life, we see how the Pullman family relies on humor to help them through painful situations. Rather than remember only how terrifying and sad it must have been to not know if your baby would live through the night, Auggie's mom tells the story of Auggie's birth in a way that makes him and Via crack up every time. As Auggie explains:

It's not funny in the way a joke is funny, but when Mom tells it, Via and I just start cracking up. (1.How I Came To Life.1)

Mom's story doesn't leave out the absolute silence in the room when everyone sees Auggie's face, or the shattered video camera, or the doctor who passes out from shock—it doesn't sugarcoat the moment. But from all that pain, she manages to extract the parts that let people laugh. This is how the Pullmans roll.

But Mom doesn't have a monopoly on humor, and Auggie says his dad, Nate, is always cracking people up too. He makes Auggie laugh, joking about Mr. Tushman's name, while Auggie is trying to stay anti-school, and when he does, the mood in the car completely shifts: "I started laughing, not even because I thought he was being that funny but because I wasn't in the mood to stay mad anymore."

Since the Pullmans use humor as a tool to navigate the trickier parts of the lives, this book is speckled with plenty of funny moments too.

Confessional

The narrators in Wonder are all very open. They may not want everyone in the world to know everything they are feeling, but they certainly want us to know. They want to explain their actions, and to understand why they do the things they do; they want to be heard and understood, to figure out why they are or are not liked, and how this relates to the bigger questions of who they are and what life is all about. So they pour their hearts out.

Jack's section has some great examples of this confessional tone. When he realizes why Auggie no longer talks to him, he says:

It's just that I knew Julian and everybody thought I was so weird for hanging out with August all the time, and I felt stupid. And I don't know why I said that stuff. I just was going along. I was stupid. I am stupid. Oh God. (4.In Science.9)

He realizes how hurtful his words must have been to Auggie, and he doesn't give himself any breaks. Jack rakes himself over the coals reexamining his behavior and attitude toward Auggie. And when Auggie and Summer are the only kids who will speak to him after Julian destroys his social life, Jack recognizes, "Okay, I'm a total hypocrite. I know" (4.Why I Didn't Sit With August the First Day of School.1), which is an acknowledgment that Auggie is showing him a kindness that he opted not to show Auggie on the first day of school.

Over and over in this book we get the good with the bad as our different narrators clue us into their thought processes and insecurities.