The Face on the Milk Carton

by Caroline B. Cooney, Caroline Bruce

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Student Question

What is the author's primary motivation in The Face on the Milk Carton?

Expert Answers

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I think that one of the primary motivations that Cooney brings out in the novel is that adolescence is a time period to realize that what might be on the surface might not represent the total reality.  Janie realizes this in the most intense of ways.  The life that she lives and leads is thrown into a sense of chaos and disarray when she recognizes that her life has been constructed on a lie, different than what it seems.  This is something that the author brings out throughout the exploration of the characters in the novel.  Janie's need to know the truth sets in motion a complete reconceptualization of Janie's world, the relationship she has with her "parents," and the understanding that she has of herself.  Cooney brings out this idea that during adolescence so much is questioned and that a part of the notion of being in the world during this developmental time is to raise questions that might not necessarily be the most comfortable to raise.  The end result of this is the idea that through discussion of these elements and possession of the courage to face these elements, greater awareness of one's place in the world and one's place within themselves can be gained.  In the end, Janie emerges as a stronger person, bringing light to the idea that that in adolescence there might be suffering in gaining knowledge, but it is superior to living in ignorant darkness.

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