What is the falling action in The Tale of Despereaux?

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gilbyteaches eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The falling action of any story occurs between the climax and the resolution, and it winds down the tension that is strongest during the climax of the story. In The Tale of Despereaux, the falling action begins after many of the main characters realize how important it is to have love, truth, and empathy in their hearts. This change happens in Despereaux's heart when he forgives his father, Lester, for sending him to his death and then makes his way to the dungeon to save Princess Pea. In this climactic scene, the servant girl Miggery "Mig" Sow finds truth in her heart as she chops off Roscuro the rat's tail. Mig realizes that she doesn't really want Princess Pea to be powerless and that she doesn't have to listen to Roscuro the rat's commands; what she really wants is her own mother back.

Despereaux, in that same climactic scene, has the opportunity to kill Roscuro the rat with his tiny needle sword, but he decides not to. With his needle pressed against Roscuro's heart, he thinks about his own heart, and Despereaux says, "Would killing the rat really make the darkness go away?" He chooses not kill Roscuro, which makes another rat, Botticelli, become annoyed. Botticelli decides to leave them alive in the dungeon. Princess Pea realizes in her heart that all Roscuro the rat wants is to have soup and that hurting him would only make her feel worse about herself.

With all of this knowledge of other characters' feelings and of their own feelings, each of the main characters emerges from the dungeon very different than they were an hour before. These changes in their hearts are at the center of the falling action. After leaving the dungeon, they eat soup (which had been banned in the kingdom), and their lives are different because of all the things they've learned.

Roscuro the rat is allowed to wander all areas of the castle free, but he spends the rest of his life feeling he does not belong anywhere. He also helps Princess Pea get Mig's dad out of the dungeon, which improves Mig's life tremendously. Mig's father treats her wonderfully to make up for all the ways he failed her before, and she feels like a princess even though she never becomes a real one.

But we all know the book is called The Tale of Despereaux, so readers are most interested in how Despereaux's life turns out. We learn during the falling action that he does not marry Princess Pea, which was his original dream. But that does not mean Despereaux is unhappy. A lot of the falling action focuses on how Despereaux learns to be happy being close friends with the Princess he loves, and the story tells us they have many adventures together.

The falling action ends with a resolution that can be called a happy ending. The main characters sit around a table eating soup together with Princess Pea's father, the king. The very last scene in the story shows Despereaux's father, Lester, watching Despereaux from behind a curtain with three of his friends. Lester is amazed at how his son forgave him and impressed with what an unbelievable life Despereaux has made for himself.

jjohnson112 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Falling action is the last part of the story.  It's the part after the climax, or the highest point of tension, has been released and the conflict has been resolved.

In The Tale of Despereaux, the falling action consists of the final scene when all of the characters are eating soup in the banquet hall.  Another part of the falling action is the last portion of the story where the author tells us what becomes of the characters. We learn that Mig's father is released from the dungeon.  And, even though Mig never gets to be a princess herself, she does receive the love of her father.  Roscuro is allowed to roam the castle.  Despereaux and Pea become great friends and the author alludes to the fact there may be more stories about their adventures.  

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