What is the climax and resolution of The Face on the Milk Carton?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The plot of any story (typically) begins with the exposition, where the characters and situation or problem are introduced to the readers. In the rising action, a series of events bring the main characters closer to the climax . In the climax of a story, the problem of the...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The plot of any story (typically) begins with the exposition, where the characters and situation or problem are introduced to the readers. In the rising action, a series of events bring the main characters closer to the climax. In the climax of a story, the problem of the story typically comes to a head. In an adventure, the climax can be the hero's most dangerous challenge. In a mystery, it can be a turning point in which the detective figures out who committed a crime and takes off to catch her. After the climax of the story, the falling action of the plot wraps everything up, answering questions and settling the story toward the resolution.

In the rising action of The Face on the Milk Carton, Janie has been gathering more and more evidence that she was kidnapped and is the girl pictured on the milk carton. But over and over again, she can't prove what she believes, or someone tries to talk her out of it. She begins to remember brief moments of her life before she came to be raised by Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. She remembers eating an ice cream sundae and someone telling her they were going for a ride. She remembers having a yellow dog. All of this leads Janie to believe that she really did have another life before the one she remembers with the Johnsons.

The climax comes when Janie and her boyfriend, Reeve, drive to New York and find the address of her birth family in the phone book, and she sees her siblings outside the house. Janie becomes more and more nervous as they drive closer to the house. She begins to ask Reeve what will happen if she tells the Spring family who she is, and she faces the frightening thought that the kind, loving, people she knows as her parents would be arrested for kidnapping. Finally, Janie and Reeve follow the school bus into the Springs' neighborhood. There they see children with red hair—just like Janie's—greeted by their red haired mother at the house, and Janie knows for sure that they are her family.

The resolution of the story comes after Janie accidentally loses the letter she wrote to the Springs, and she tells the Johnsons the whole story. Reeve's sister Lizzie helps her break the news to them. On the last page of the book, Mrs. Johnson calls the phone number for the Springs in New Jersey and hands the phone to Janie. Janie tells the woman who answers, "It's Jennie," ending the Springs search for their missing daughter.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The climax in The Face on the Milk Carton is the most important part of the action. It occurs in chapter 17 when Janie learns that the letter she had addressed to the Springs family has gone missing from her backpack. That letter had contained all the details and information that Janie had learned about her kidnapping and had also included her home address. Janie had not necessarily intended to mail the letter but had included all the essential details to avoid leaving any detail out.

These events then lead to the falling action of Lizzie explaining the details of the kidnapping to Janie's parents and relieving Janie of the heavy burden she had been carrying for so long. The family discusses how the Springs will react to the letter, and what Janie's plan of action should be. Janie and her parents share a tearful moment where they remind her that none of what has happened is her fault.

The resolution happens at the very end of the novel, and in a way is also the start to a new story which continues in the novel's sequel. It is triggered by a phone call from the Springs, which Janie answers and tells the woman on the other end of the phone that she is her daughter. It resolves the uncertainty that Janie had been dealing with throughout the entirety of the novel, of who her real parents are, and also suggests a resolution for the Springs as well, as they are about to learn what really happened to their missing daughter.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The climax occurs when Janie, who is shocked to see her own childhood picture on a milk carton, begins to recall events of her former life.  Eventually, "Janie confronts her parents and learns that she was left with them by their daughter Hannah. The Johnsons believe Hannah, who tells them Janie is their granddaughter, and that both Hannah and Janie are being pursued by a religious cult that Hannah joined when she ran away from home. When Hannah deserts the Johnsons and Janie, they take their granddaughter and flee their former life—moving to Connecticut, changing their last name from Javenson to Johnson— to avoid being discovered by the cult." 

There is no complete resolution to Cooney's novel.  Janie has to learn to live with new definitions of family, and what makes a family strong.  Her boyfriend, Reeve, helps her to do this but they both struggle with her emotional upheaval. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team