What is the climax of the novel, A Year Down Yonder?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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The climax of Richard Peck's novel comes after Grandma has been giving the house a "second spring cleaning," including turning mattresses and "rearranging" the cobhouse with "a turning lathe, a shingle machine, a circular saw, and a row of chamber pots." Mary Alice muses that Grandma was changing and had become a "whirling dervish."

In the midst of all this commotion, Mary Alice receives a letter from her mother and father. It explains to Mary Alice that her dad was working again and that they'd found an apartment in a nice area. The letter says that her mother is busily working to fix up the second bedroom in the apartment for Mary Alice. She learns too that they want her to return home to them as soon as school is out for the summer.

When Mary Alice gets this news, the depth of the relationship forged between Grandma and Mary Alice comes to the fore. Though the scene is executed with subtlety, it is apparent that neither Mary Alice nor Grandma wants to part from the other.

Grandma tries to bluff in her usual gruff manner, and Mary Alice tries to reason her way into being allowed to stay, saying that Grandma needed her and that she'd "fuss" if she weren't there to see that Grandma was all right: "I'd fuss about her if I wasn't here to see how she was."

In a lastattempt to persuade Grandma, Mary Alice tries, in one last effort, to use a trick Grandma had taught her. She turns the direction of her appeal to whether she herself has been inadequate: "Grandma, was I too much trouble?"

Though this approach brings Grandma to tears and a trembling chin, hidden behind fingertips brought to her lips, Grandma remains firm asking what Mary Alice's "maw" and "paw" would think of her if she let Mary Alice stay. Their resignation to parting is set when Grandma gives Mary Alice the kitten, while keeping the cat for herself, and implies that Mary Alice will always be welcome whenever she can get away: "You can go on home to your folks. It'll be all right. I don't lock my doors."

This is the climax because it is the point at which the problem of the novel-- the relationship between Grandma and Mary Alice as Mary Alice comes of age--is firmly decided and at which the fate of each, richer than it would have been without the other, is firmly decided. The emotional impact of the moment confirms the climactic nature of the scene.

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