The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux

by

Kate DiCamillo

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Tale of Despereaux can help.

The Tale of Despereaux: Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The beat that Lester beats on the drum becomes even more ominous as the threadmaster leaves the gathered mice. Everyone falls silent as two big mice with cloth covering their heads approach Despereaux. They’ll take him to the dungeon. Just then, Antoinette calls for Despereaux. She’s easy to spot in the crowd (she put on a lot of makeup for this momentous occasion), and she begs for a final word with Despereaux. Despereaux tries not to tremble, as he doesn’t want to disappoint his mother. She asks what will happen to him, and grudgingly, one of the burly mice explains that the rats will eat Despereaux. Despereaux feels ready to faint, but Antoinette beats him to it.
That Lester is still beating the drum—that is, actively participating in sending his son to the dungeon—highlights that he prioritizes conformity over supporting his own family members. Antoinette seems marginally more interested in trying to support and advocate for Despereaux. However, her excessive makeup and dramatic swoon suggest that she thinks this is more about her than about her son, so she’s still behaving selfishly.
Themes
Conformity Theme Icon
Muttering, the burly mice lead Despereaux over Antoinette’s unconscious body. The crowd chants, the drum beats, and just as Despereaux is led from the room, Antoinette wakes up and shouts, “Adieu.” Adieu, the narrator explains, means “farewell” in French, and it’s not what anyone wants to hear their mother saying as they’re led to their death. A person would much rather hear their mother offer to go in their place, since that would be comforting. “Farewell” isn’t comforting in any language.
When it comes down to it, Antoinette—just like Lester and Furlough—refuses to defend her youngest son. She simply accepts that he’s going to die. The narrator makes it clear that this causes Despereaux to feel totally alone and unsupported. Now, he must turn to people outside his family—like the threadmaster, and perhaps the Pea—to find support.
Themes
Love, Forgiveness, and Absurdity Theme Icon