Where'd You Go Bernadette
Maria Semple
Contributed by Ariane Heyne
Chapter 1
Summary

The story starts by recounting Bernadette’s disappearance and the beginning of Bee’s attempts to find her. Bee gathers letters of correspondence regarding her mother and her disappearance. She reinvents the memories that they shared as a family, as a way to think about her mother and in an attempt to establish specific ways in which she could find her. The first chapter contains a series of letters that were shared between different individuals. The first letter is that of Bee’s teacher, Levy, to Bernadette. In the letter, Levy tells Bernadette that her daughter is excelling in all of her classes. Levy is also full of praise for Bee by stating that, “Her love of learning is infectious, as is her kindness and humor” (Semple 1). In the statement, he seems to hold great admiration for Bee, especially since she is away from home in a boarding school and does not interact with the rest of her family as much as she would like. That night, her parents sit down with her during dinner to tell Bee how proud they were of her.  

Another letter is the one Bernadette wrote to her virtual assistant, Manjula Kapoor, written on Tuesday, November 16th. She informs Manjula of the tasks that she needs to complete. For instance, she tells her that to book tickets to Antarctica for her, Bee and her husband. Bee had performed well at Galer Street that semester, scoring ’S’s in all her courses; the S is used at the institution to signify an A grade (Semple 10). In return for these achievements, Bee requests that they go to Antarctica as a family. In the previous semester, her parents had promised Bee that she could have anything she wanted if she performed well in all her exams. Bernadette makes the plans to honor her request although, personally, she does not feel like going to Antarctica.

Analysis

The first letter shows the kind of diligence that Bee has in relation to her studies. The fact that she managed to score ’S’s in all her papers shows that she is focused on her studies. Her family also seems to be a close-knit one, especially given the fact that she is in a boarding school. Bee does not allow the distance that exists between her and her parents to cause a distraction. The first letter also shows the good relationship that Bee has with her parents; they are supportive of her and really proud of her progress. The second letter goes on to show the extreme care that Bernadette has towards her daughter. Although she is not welcome to the idea of going to Antarctica, she still agrees to do so for the sake of her daughter — sacrificing her own agoraphobia.

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