What is the conflict of the novel A Year Down Yonder?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Richard Peck's young adult novel A Year Down Yonder, protagonist Mary Alice is thrust into a situation in which she must uproot from her former life and settle into a new life she feels she'll absolutely hate. The book is set in 1937; the people of America have recovered from the Great Depression, but in 1937 to 1938, America hit a recession because President Roosevelt was being persuaded to cut spending and balance the budget. As a result of the recession, Mary Alice's dad lost his job in Chicago. The job loss did not affect Mary Alice's brother because he was old enough to take a job in the Civilian Conservation Corps; however, Mary Alice's parents could only afford an apartment big enough for the two of them, making it necessary to send Mary Alice to live with her grandmother, a prospect Mary Alice was not looking forward to. Since Mary Alice's unhappiness stems from her external circumstance, such as the economic recession and having to move in with Grandma Dowdel, we can call this conflict character vs. circumstances.

In the eyes of Mary Alice, a city girl from Chicago, Grandma lived in "hick-town." Moving to live with Grandma would mean having to leave her school and "enroll in the hick-town school." The town didn't even have a movie theater. Mary Alice further expresses her disdain for Grandma's town in the following:

It meant I'd be living with Grandma. No telephone, of course. And the attic was spooky and stuffy, and you had to go outdoors to the privy. Nothing modern. Everything as old as Grandma. Some of it older. ("Prologue")

Though Mary Alice breaks down when she first arrives, she eventually does as Grandma advises her to do: She adjusts. Plus, the more she learns about how caring and hardworking her grandmother is, the more she grows to love her and feel at home.

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