My Side of the Mountain

by Jean George

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How does Sam change in My Side of the Mountain by Jean George?

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Sam changes in terms of learning the skills he needs to survive in the rural hinterlands and developing into a more mature, less impulsive boy. At the outset, Sam’s tremendous desire to prove himself and to commune with nature seems highly unrealistic. As he demonstrates frequently his limited grasp of what wildness and wild things actually are, his actions endanger him rather than furthering his objective of living off the land. His personal growth largely consists of developing respect for coexisting with the world around him, in contrast to imposing his will. Sam learns many lessons the hard way. Although he has fire-making tools, that does not translate into success. Initially he assumes that nature'

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Sam changes in terms of learning the skills he needs to survive in the rural hinterlands and developing into a more mature, less impulsive boy. At the outset, Sam’s tremendous desire to prove himself and to commune with nature seems highly unrealistic. As he demonstrates frequently his limited grasp of...

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what wildness and wild things actually are, his actions endanger him rather than furthering his objective of living off the land. His personal growth largely consists of developing respect for coexisting with the world around him, in contrast to imposing his will.

Sam learns many lessons the hard way. Although he has fire-making tools, that does not translate into success. Initially he assumes that nature’s bounty will provide for him, but does not think ahead about winter scarcity and the need to stockpile supplies.

In part through his own interactions with other humans, and in part through observing that even the animals depend on each other, Sam learns that living “alone” in the wild requires a tremendous interdependency with others; he starts to turn into an environmentalist.

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Sam Gribley is a city boy who has run away to live on his own in the Catskill mountains. He has read some books about survival skills, but he has never had a chance to try the techniques for himself. Now he does, because he has no other choice. He teaches himself even more things about living in the wild: like what plants are edible, or what natural resources can be used to supply something he needs. He grows and matures in his own way throughout this book. By the conclusion, he has learned personal responsibility, how to set goals and to achieve them, and how to not only survive, but to succeed. He has developed from being just another kid in a big city family, into a confident young man.

We expect fictional characters to undergo some kind of change between the beginning and ending of a book. Otherwise, why would we want to read about someone who experiences nothing? Sam Gribley ranks among the most changed characters in literature for young people. This is his coming-of-age story.

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How does Sam change throughout the story in My Side of the Mountain?

When Sam runs away from home to live on the mountain, he is setting out to be alone. There were too many people living in his house in New York, with Sam's parents raising and feeding eight children (besides Sam). Sam initially enjoys his solitude. 

Sam goes to great lengths to avoid contact with other people during his year in the wilderness, but he does make several human friends.

As the story goes on Sam changes from being happy alone on the mountain to craving more human contact. This is one of the most significant changes he goes through. In the end, Sam is still torn about the merits of building a real, family house in the woods, but he is glad to have the companionship of his family.

Other changes take place for Sam as he learns to overcome certain fears in the woods. 

When winter arrived he had plenty of supplies, but he was still scared.

Sam's fears of having too little firewood and of being trapped in his tree by the snow prove to be rather easily overcome. Sam's confidence grows through the winter after he has faced his winter fears and conquered them.

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