What is the main problem in the book A Long Way from Chicago?

Expert Answers

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A Long Way from Chicago chronicles the adventures of two siblings and their Grandma Dowdel. Joey and Mary Alice, the city kids, are not pleased to spend their summers in Grandma's small town. They prefer their lives in Chicago, where something is always happening. Moreover, Grandma is not a doting or pampering grandmother. She values her privacy, hates small-town gossip, and does not suffer fools lightly. After the first summer, she expects Joey and Mary Alice to find their way home from the station.

Soon the children realize that there is more to Grandma than her grouchy side. She catches criminals, outwits rowdy neighborhood kids, helps lovers to elope, and strong-arms a banker. The sheriff of the town calls her a "one-woman crime wave." From seeing their first corpse to helping Grandma trespass, Joey and Mary Alice have seven unforgettable summers.

Each summer Grandma teaches the children something about life. The kids learn to appreciate her and take on some of her unique characteristics.

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Although this is work filled with humor, prejudice is probably the main problem in Peck's novel.

The following excerpt from the analysis at eNotes should help explain the issue for you. Follow the link below for more information on social sensitivity and other issues Peck addresses.

"The townspeople are prejudiced towards the homeless men who ride rails seeking work. Prejudice is the result of misunderstanding, lack of education about other people and their ways, or emanates from a mean spirit and selfishness. If readers identify areas of prejudice in themselves, they can find several instances where Joey and Mary Alice learned from Grandma Dowdel how to treat others with compassion. She came to the defense of Shotgun Cheatham's reputation, Mrs. Wilcox's dignity, Aunt Puss Chapman's material needs, helped rescue seventeen-year-old Vandalia from her abusive mother, and fed hungry people. When we do not know the circumstances surrounding a person's life, we might prejudge that person. Peck's characters show a better way to treat others."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
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