The Dreadful Future of Blossom Culp

by Richard Peck

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 520

The Dreadful Future of Blossom Culp, the third of Peck's four comic supernatural novels set in the small town of Bluff City in the second decade of the twentieth century, is an often boisterous adventure fantasy that satirically examines the unfortunately enduring human tendencies toward narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy. The novel owes much of its appeal to the lively and eccentric narrative voice of Blossom Culp. Looked down on as a social outcast, she is a girl who, as she phrases it, lives by rules of her own. Gifted with penetrating insights about human behavior, she candidly exposes hypocrisy and bigotry. Gifted with second sight, she frequently makes contact with the supernatural.

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In The Dreadful Future of Blossom Culp, Blossom describes the events of the autumn of 1914 when she enters her freshman year of high school where she must deal with the snobbery of the town's most popular girl, Letty Shambaugh, and her clique of conforming followers. In the course of her first weeks at school, Blossom struggles with her former friend, Alex Armsworth's refusal to admit to his own gift of second sight and his general rejection of her friendship as he pursues popularity and status with a less-than-law-abiding crowd of boys. Blossom's sensitivity and mature understanding of human behavior lead her into a friendship with Daisy-Rae, a poor girl from the country, and reveal the deceitful womanizing habits of Mr. Lacy, the new history teacher. By the end of the novel Blossom has exposed Mr. Lacy as a two-timing seducer, taught Alex Armsworth some lessons in mature behavior, temporarily deflated Letty Shambaugh's ego, used her occult and psychological resources to make a success of the freshman class haunted house project, and most notably taken a trip seventy years into the future.

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On a stormy October night in a supposedly haunted farmhouse, Blossom suddenly finds herself a confused outsider in the Bluff City of 1984. In this, the novel's central event, Blossom provides a satirical vision of modern life and discovers that some things—human narrow-mindedness and snobbery— have stayed the same. Fortunately she finds that friendship still exists in this future world where she meets Jeremy, a lonely boy obsessed with computers and science fiction, and who, like Blossom, is treated like an outcast by his peers. Jeremy introduces Blossom to a world of sub-developments, gadgets, fast food, and modern schooling that is stripped of its comfortable familiarity by Blossom's distant historical perspective. In the midst of the impersonal, alien, and chaotic environment of Jeremy's Bluffleigh Heights Magnet Middle School, Blossom meets the same sort of "gang of stuck-up girls" that rule the halls and classrooms of her own school back in 1914. Indeed, the leader of these girls turns out to be the granddaughter of the snobbish Letty Shambaugh in Blossom's 1914 freshman class. Armed with fresh insights about the enduring qualities of human nature, Blossom returns to her early twentieth-century small town world where she continues to defend her integrity and individuality against the pressures of conformity. As a determined eccentric, Blossom provides satirical commentary and genuine human warmth, making her narrative much more than simply a comic adventure fantasy.

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