What is the rising action in "The Twenty-One Balloons"?

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poetrymfa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène due Bois follows the tale of Professor William Waterman Sherman, who retires from his job as a schoolteacher in order to fly across the world by himself in a hot air balloon, planning for the trip to take a year. 

The rising action of the novel starts with the discovery that Professor Sherman has wrecked in the North Atlantic amidst twenty balloons, having completed his circumnavigation in a mere three weeks. Professor Sherman recounts this tale, including the heightened perils he faced when a seagull punctured his balloon and caused him to crash on Krakatoa, a volcanic island, where he discovered a wealthy society whose lifestyle was fueled by a diamond mine. The novel describes the details of this society, which leads up to the climax of the novel—the eruption of the volcano and the escape of the island's population on a platform raised by the twenty balloons.

sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The climax of this story is when the Utopian people decide to work with the professor to save the lives of everyone on the island, putting human life before their wealth.  Many things happen to lead the plot to this point.

First, the Professor decides to use a hot-air balloon to escape from society and have some solitude.

Then, as irony would have it, he lands on the island of Krakatoa, coming again into contact with society, just not his own.

Next, he interacts with the Krakatoans and learns about their perfect society and its relationship to their excessive wealth. 

Finally, the danger of the volcano becomes apparent, and the villagers and the Professor must rely upon each other if they want to survive the volcano and escape the island safely.