A Long Way from Chicago

by Richard Peck

Start Free Trial

Discussion Topic

Mary Alice's character and personality in A Long Way from Chicago

Summary:

Mary Alice is a curious and adaptable young girl. Initially, she feels out of place in her grandmother's rural town, but over time, she grows more confident and independent. Her observations and experiences during her summer visits shape her into a compassionate and resourceful individual, reflecting her ability to learn and grow from her surroundings.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Describe Mary Alice's character and personality in A Long Way from Chicago.

Mary Alice is the younger sister of the narrator of the story, Joey McDowdell. She accompanies Joey on their yearly visits to their eccentric grandmother each summer, and, despite her age, is a little more intuitive in understanding both their grandmother and their experiences under her care.

Mary Alice is only seven when she and her brother are sent to stay with their grandmother for the first time. Although she is initially unhappy about being sent away from her home and friends, she quickly adjusts to the new environment and her grandmother's quirky ways. She learns to appreciate before her brother that despite her outrageous actions, their grandmother has a big heart and cares deeply about the downtrodden in the community. She also is the first to voice the realization that, if they knew the truth of all that goes on during the summers at their grandmother's, their parents might not think that Grandma is a very good influence on their children. Mary Alice shows her acceptance of her grandmother's audacious personality, and the often noble but hidden motives behind her actions when she joins the older woman in conspiring to prevent an annoying neighbor, Mrs. L.J. Weidenbach, from winning all the prizes in the local talent show. Mary Alice is intelligent and capable, and her character undergoes significant growth during the progression of the narrative.

Over the years of the summers spent with their grandmother, Mary Alice grows up into a likeable, sensible, and very capable young lady. She becomes an adept ballroom dancer, and even teaches Roy Veech, the young gas station attendant in town how to be a good dance partner. Together, because of Mary Alice's confident initiative, the two young people enter the local talent contest, and win first place.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What are some facts about Mary Alice in A Long Way from Chicago?


From McDowell's narration, we realize that Mary Alice is a strong and charismatic young lady. Although she is only seven years old at the time, her character is displayed as a person with an understanding of everything happening around. From the narration, we figure out some facts about Mary Alice.

She doesn't like her grandmother. She doesn't like being sent away from home to spend time with her grandmother. She loves her home and her friends; she wants to stay at home during summer so that she can have fun with her friends. However, she is forced to visit and stay with her grandmother every year. We also learn that she is a wise young lady. Although she doesn't like staying with her grandmother, she quickly embraces the routine. She realizes that she has to stay with her grandmother every summer, so she works hard to make the relationship between them work. Although Mary Alice doesn't like her grandmother, her grandmother does turn out to be helpful, even helping her win the local talent show.

Mary Alice is also a talented and courageous girl. She trains herself to become a skillful ballroom dancer and helps motivate other young girls in town to achieve the same. She encourages Roy Veech to participate in dancing, and they eventually win the first prize in a local dancing competition together.


See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on