by Cynthia Lord

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What are Catherine's strengths and weaknesses in Rules, and how do they affect the story? What contradictions exist in Catherine, Jason, and Kristi? Who exhibits prejudice?

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Catherine is a 12-year-old girl, who helps her parents take care of her younger autistic brother David. She creates rules for David to follow, so that he can properly behave in various social situations and seem more "normal." In fact, that's all that Catherine desires—to have a "normal" life; and this is actually her main weakness.

Throughout the novel, Catherine tries to appear as "cool" as possible. She tries to make everyone think that her life is perfectly fine and organized, despite felling embarrassed of her brother and feeling like she's invisible to her parents, whom she believes are only preoccupied with David and his condition. She also tries to impress and befriend Kristy, her new neighbor, by trying to be more like her and hiding the fact that she's friends with Jason, a disabled boy she's met in occupational therapy because she thinks Kristy will judge her.

Catherine seems to think that being disabled, be it physically or mentally, is not "normal." This perspective makes her character appear as weak because it portrays her as a shallow and insecure individual. She desperately seeks approval and acceptance without realizing that everyone else is doing the exact same thing as well and that no one is actually perfect.

Fortunately, that's only on the surface and by the end of the novel, Catherine realizes that everyone has a different definition of "normal" and that tolerance, humanity, and acceptance should be the pillars of society. It's okay for disabled people to feel that their disabilities define them by affecting their day-to-day lives, their decision-making, and their choices, but they certainly don't have to feel that their disability is an obstacle for the pursuit of happiness, because happiness, like people, comes in different shapes, forms, and sizes.

Thus, the main strengths of Catherine's character is that she's insightful, compassionate, and understanding. Taking care of her brother has taught her acceptance, responsibility, kindness and love—she loves her brother dearly and is very protective of him. Acknowledging Jason's disability instead of seeing past it and forming a wonderful bond with him based on their shared love for art has taught her trust, friendship, patience and open-mindedness—she likes Jason and likes the fact that they have similar interests, despite their differences. Catherine is a loving, intelligent, and selfless young girl, who has the potential to grow up into a wise woman that knows the true values of life.

On a less serious note, one of Catherine's character strengths is also her artistic nature. She loves to draw, and she's very meticulous and creative, while her weakness is dancing. She's not that good of a dancer, but she loves to do it when no one is watching or when she's "alone and it's pitch black."

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