Why does Catherine get uneasy when Jason refers to her as a friend on his communication board in Cynthia Lord's Rules? 

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

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In Cynthia Lord's young reader's novel Rules, Catherine gets uneasy because she has mixed emotions about being Jason's friend. But her mixed emotions run much deeper than that; she is not merely uncertain about Jason's friendship, she is uncertain about all of her friendships--the one thing she feels she wants most in life. As the novel progresses, she feels more comfortable with her own desires and needs and eventually makes solid friendships.

One thing Catherine explains to Jason is that she feels "like [she's] ripping in half" because of her mixed desires. On the one hand, she feels that her little brother David and Jason are not "normal" people since other "normal" people would characterize them as "abnormal" due to their disabilities. Because she feels this way, she wants to "run away and be a regular person" with her regular friends. Yet, on the other hand, she can't leave because she knows her brother needs her, and she questions "regular" peoples' perspective of "normal" and "abnormal." As Catherine continues her friendship with Jason, she realizes that, just like David and Jason, she too has trouble expressing her feelings even though she would be considered "normal." And, ironically, the more she helps Jason express himself through making him word cards, the more she is able to express her own thoughts and feelings through the word cards.

Catherine's fear of abnormality impacts her friendships. She blames her brother for her failed friendships, but the reality is that she is two different people when she is around her brother vs. when she is around people she sees as "normal." Soon, Catherine expresses her fears to her mother about being seen with either David or Jason because she worries about what people will think of her. When her mother replies, "Just because other people think something, that doesn't make it true," Catherine is finally able to embrace the idea of being herself and accepts Jason's invitation to the dance her "normal" friends Kristi and Ryan are attending. To her satisfaction, neither Kristi nor Ryan judge Catherine for being with Jason, allowing her to finally feel that she is no longer being ripped in two since she now sees that there isn't really a division between "normal" and "abnormal"--normal doesn't truly exist.

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