The themes involving family and adventure unify Thimble Summer. These themes find their focus in Garnet Linden, a girl "between nine and ten" who craves independence and the respect of her family. A tomboy, Garnet goes barefoot most of the time, dislikes wearing dresses, and enjoys physical activities such as swimming and helping out with the farm work. Quick to anger and nearly as quick to forgive, she is a resilient, good-hearted character.
Garnet looks to her family for warmth and support, but she is an independent girl who wants adventures of her own and who sometimes acts without thinking. When her brother's teasing leads her to run off impetuously to New Connlston, she has a vague idea that maybe her family will be "sorry later on." This childish notion of punishing those who love her is forgotten in the excitement of hitchhiking and then riding a speeding bus on the way to town. Once in New Conniston, she is delighted with the shops and ends up buying small presents for her family. Having carelessly spent her money, she finds herself stranded and must walk some of the eighteen miles home before she finds a ride with a truck driver. Upon Garnet's return, her neighbor Mr. Freebody points out just how painful her thoughtlessness could have been to those who love and worry about her.
Garnet's situation is a difficult one. She needs to learn to think about how her actions could affect others, but she also has to satisfy her independent spirit and sense of self-respect. Much of the novel emphasizes how she develops self-control, and by the end of the novel, she is well on her way toward adulthood, having decided that...
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