The thread tying all of the characters in this novel together is the plight of the burrowing owls and whether they will be destroyed to make way for the Mother Paula’s All-American Pancake House that is supposed to be built on top of their homes. The champion of environmentalism in the story comes in the unlikely form of the runaway boy Mullet Fingers, who pulls harmless pranks and shows remarkable tenacity is his campaign to prevent the owls from being killed. The owls themselves—tiny, cute, just trying to live their lives—also rally the readers to the cause of protecting nature. The owls and those who try to save them are portrayed in a positive light, whereas the pancake company is portrayed as conniving, cruel, and heartless; this promotes the message that protecting nature and preserving the environment as an important fight.
The antagonist in the story is the corporate official who plots to get his pancake house built even if it means destroying protected wildlife. Humorously named Chuck Muckle, this company man ignores the mandates set forth to protect nature and innocent life; instead, he bullies the foreman to continue the construction project. He represents the pancake company’s greed and villainy, which is emphasized at the end of the story as Muckle throws a fit when Roy and his friends succeed in stopping the construction. The disingenuous nature of the corporate world is further seen when the pancake house apologizes for the misunderstanding with the owls: in an insincere act meant to repair the bad public relations from the protest at the site, it offers to donate money to the lot to preserve it as a “Nature Conservancy” spot. The company and those who run it are motivated by money and business success; they are portrayed as callous and heartless individuals who only do the right thing if it promotes their business interests.
Courage is displayed by...
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