Themes and Characters
Last Updated on February 2, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 745
Although growing up, first kiss, and moving are all aspects of the main character's journey, loss of a parent is the overriding theme of Walk Two Moons. Sal must accept that her mother will never return to her and her dad. Through Sal's trip with her grandparents as they retrace her mother's steps to the bus accident, and to her mother's grave, Sal comes to the realization that she must let go of her dream of having her mother back.
Sal is confused about why her mother needed to take the trip that ended her life. She feels somewhat that her mother's leaving is connected to the love or lack of love between her mother and her. However, Sugar's need to leave can be loosely connected with her feeling of being dead to whom she was. The story reveals Sugar's insecure feelings about herself and her need to find herself. Mr. Hiddle adored Sugar, was crushed by her leaving and devastated by her death. Mr. Hiddle's unending goodness compared to Sugar's ways contributed to Sugar's feeling of inadequacies. Sugar also lost an unborn baby. A struggle exists for Sal since the baby was lost after Sugar carried Sal from a fall. Sal feels guilty about the baby and yet, doesn't understand why her mother needed another child to love.
The move from the farm to the city takes Sal from all she holds dear, but is necessary for her father to begin healing. Sal is angry with her dad because of the move and she seems to remove herself as much as possible from her dad's life. Margaret Cadaver, who became a friend of Sugar's and is the only survivor of the bus accident, advises Mr. Hiddle to move to Euclid. Unaware of the full meaning of this friendship, Sal reveals displeasure for his friendship to Margaret. In time Sal comes to understand and appreciate Margaret in their lives.
Margaret's brother, Mr. Birkway is the English teacher, and according to students, he is not the typical teacher. In fact, Mr. Birkway reminds Sal of her own mother, and he becomes the catalyst for many of the issues that growing Sal, Phoebe, and other students discuss. Another member of Margaret's family who plays an important role is her mother, Mrs. Partridge, who is blind. It is Mrs. Partridge who leaves the mysterious messages on Phoebe's doorsteps, which unintentionally connects with what is going on in the Winterbottom household.
Sal's new group of friends begins with Phoebe Winterbottom. Her family "appears" fairly normal although her mother "works a little too hard" at being the perfect mother as if she were trying to overcome something. The family has come to have certain expectations of Mrs. Winterbottom, often taking her for granted. Mrs. Winterbottom and her family's world are rocked when an illegitimate son finds her. At first, the young man doesn't identify himself and Phoebe who often makes something of nothing, makes him out to be a lunatic. However, when Phoebe's mother disappears at about the same time a younger man shows up, she is almost certain he is "the lunatic." The young man has something to do with Mrs. Winterbottom's disappearance but not in a sinister way. The story of Phoebe connects with Sal's story with one exception- Mrs. Winterbottom comes home.
Among the other friends Sal makes is Ben; they seem to be drawn together although Sal doesn't quite know what to make of the attraction. Throughout the story Sal and Ben become closer and Sal believes Ben has tried to kiss her once. Sal discovers the secret about Ben's mother, which she understands because of similarities between her mother and Ben's. Their bond grows as the two experience their first kiss.
Sal's grandparents play an important role in the development of her journey. They are loving and sweet, but a little peculiar. Gram and Gramps love their Sal and are happy to provide the trip to Idaho for her. They are sensitive to what they have determined Sal needs to release her mother, but are seemingly unaffected by the heaviness Sal feels along the trip. Amusing facts about Gram and Gramps' life together that "slip out" on the road evidences this lightheartedness. As Sal faces her mother's death by returning to the scene of the bus accident, Gramps must also face the loss of Gram. In the end Sal draws strength from her family and the bond that exists between them because of their losses.