Wonder

Wonder

by

R. J. Palacio

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Wonder can help.
Summary
Analysis
In the car on the way home, August and Via fall asleep. August wakes up after dark to hear Mom and Dad whispering about sending him to school. Dad is angry and says that sending August to middle school is like sending a lamb to slaughter, but he stops when he notices that August is awake. August immediately begins crying that everyone will stare at him, and Mom assures him that they won't force him to go. She does say that the principal at Beecher Prep is excited to meet him, and he's seen pictures of August. August is hurt to discover that both Mom and Dad attended a meeting with the principal.
August's tears suggest that the bullying problem was one of the reasons he was homeschooled, even if nobody's been willing to voice it until now. The discovery that both Mom and Dad have been talking about August attending school suggests that this isn't an easy process for them either. It's clear that Dad has some mixed emotions about all of this, showing that adults don't simply stop feeling emotions just because they're supposed to be grown up and rational.
Themes
Independence and Growing Up Theme Icon
Status and Bullying Theme Icon
Parenting and Guidance Theme Icon
Mom explains that she and Dad met the principal last year, and August is even more hurt that his parents have been talking about sending him to school for a whole year without his knowledge. He learns that the lady who came to give him the "IQ test" a while ago actually administered an admissions test, and he refuses to accept Mom's apology for lying about it. Dad explains that he and Mom love their son and want to protect him, but they sometimes differ on how to best do that. Mom insists that going to school this year, for fifth grade, will be best because everyone else is also just starting middle school. She talks about how nice the science lab is, but August won't have it.
Though August doesn't seem to recognize it, Mom's admission that she did something wrong and her apology for lying is a way for her to treat August more like an autonomous adult. Even though August rejects this treatment, it seems that his parents are willing to give him opportunities to behave in more grown-up ways. This shows in turn that parents have a responsibility to push their kids towards making these more adult choices.
Themes
The Difficulty of Kindness Theme Icon
Independence and Growing Up Theme Icon
Parenting and Guidance Theme Icon
Mom asks if August will at least meet Mr. Tushman, the principal, and August is aghast at Mr. Tushman's name. Dad jokes about Mr. Tushman's name and explains that in college, he and Mom had a professor named Miss Butt. August laughs, even though he doesn't want to find any of this funny. Via wakes up and groggily asks who Mr. Tushman is, and August explains that he's the principal of his new school.
Dad and August's joking about Mr. Tushman and Miss Butt's names isn't exactly kind, but joking and teasing like this is a way to build community through making fun of others. Though the novel positions this moment as being relatively benign, this is August's first introduction to an idea that will later be used to exclude him.
Themes
The Difficulty of Kindness Theme Icon
Status and Bullying Theme Icon
Parenting and Guidance Theme Icon