The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society By Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows Summary and Analysis February 1946

Summary

After Juliet and Dawsey correspond several times, she asks his permission to write the story of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society in her new piece for The Times. Dawsey asks Amelia Maugery, a fellow society member, to respond to Juliet's request. Amelia replies that the islanders would be happy to be written about, but would not want to be subjected to ridicule. She requests to know more about Juliet and her intentions.

Juliet quickly obliges, sending Amelia two letters of referral from a childhood reverend and a Fire Warden she worked with during the Blitz. Although the Fire Warden believes Juliet to be idiotic for once attempting to save books from a burning library, she still affirms Juliet's character. The reverend declares her to be quite trustworthy as well. Upon receiving the letters of referral, Amelia and the other society members agree to Juliet's request and eagerly begin corresponding with her about literature and their war experiences.

Also, in these two letters, Juliet's childhood story emerges. After her parents were killed in an auto accident when she was 12, she went to live with her great-uncle. Because he paid her little attention, she ran away twice and was eventually sent to boarding school. While there, she thrived and became close friends with Sophie and Sidney Stark.

Amelia explains in more depth how the society came about and their customs. After Elizabeth McKenna spontaneously created the society, the club continued and formed traditions. Members made their literary selections — even though they knew little about literature — and were to read, discuss, and debate at the society's fortnightly meetings. Refreshments, even if they had to be makeshift because of the food shortage, would be included.

A letter to Juliet from Isola Pribby tells her more about Elizabeth McKenna: Elizabeth was arrested by the Germans and sent to prison in France after the Germans discovered her hiding a Polish slave worker. Her daughter Kit was left behind on Guernsey to be raised by islanders.

Juliet also learns about the Germans' arrival on Guernsey in June 1940, after they bombed the island two days prior. They then occupied the island for five years, during which the islanders were required to follow a strict curfew and supply food for the German soldiers.

Outside of her Guernsey correspondences, Juliet finally obtains Mark Reynolds's address to thank him for the flowers that he continues to send her. In response, Mark asks Juliet to dine the following week, and the two are dating by month's end. Sidney writes Juliet much less frequently — she suspects that he disapproves of her and Mark's budding relationship.

Analysis

The letters of recommendation that Juliet attains for Amelia highlight one of Juliet's strongest and most prevalent qualities: her honesty. Through two stories about Juliet's honesty in the past, the letters foreshadow her strong moral fiber throughout the novel. Juliet's honesty is a trait that will earn her the trust of almost everyone she meets. She hides nothing from her loved ones, as is especially evident through her constant stream of full-disclosure communication with Sidney. Likewise, Juliet will eventually offer full disclosure to the islanders she comes to love.

Although Juliet quickly earns the trust of Dawsey Adams through her warm tone and natural interest in the story of Guernsey, she must earn the trust of other islanders before proceeding with her new project for The Times. She hopes that multiple voices will contribute in order to capture the full essence of the German occupation of Guernsey. The first character she must impress is Amelia Maugery, one of the wisest and most influential voices on the island.

The two letters of recommendation prove to be a success. Although the Fire Warden declares Juliet's impulsivity during the Blitz to be stain on her character, even she ultimately affirms Juliet's integrity. Juliet's impulsivity, while so often a source of trouble, always stems from good intentions. Along with the two letters of recommendation, Juliet offers Amelia Maugery a firm promise that she will share the story of Guernsey to inspire readers rather than exploit the islanders for fame or money. Juliet's character will grow in several directions throughout her experience, but her honesty and loyalty are two qualities that never waver.

Furthermore, Juliet's letters of recommendation disclose a fair amount of information about her childhood. In running away twice from her uncle's home, she exemplifies the fiery passion that will follow her for the rest of her life. Her passion matures throughout her life, ultimately driven not by her personal desires but by what she believes to be right. This underlying character trait is evident in many of Juliet's past choices, from her break-up with Rob Dartry to her fiery defense against Gilly Gilberts' accusations. Her passion will continue to play a vital role in the novel.

Alongside Juliet's story, the letters from the islanders reveal more about the life of Elizabeth McKenna and her mirroring passion. Elizabeth's spontaneity spurred the creation of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. She was resourceful, quick, and dedicated to keeping the society alive after the night of the pig roast. Like Juliet, Elizabeth was unwilling to settle for what she believed to be wrong. The islanders were suffering unfairly at the hands of the Germans and so deserved a viable escape through literature and food. She would continue to be the main driving passion behind the society for the extent of her time on Guernsey. Isola's revelation that Elizabeth was transported to France after attempting to hide a slave worker also exemplifies her passion and dedication to what is right. As Elizabeth and Juliet possess so many mirroring character traits, Elizabeth acts as a foil to Juliet for much of the novel.

After Elizabeth's sudden departure, the islanders were quick to raise her daughter Kit as their own. Their kind actions embody the naturally protective instincts of the islanders toward one another, even if they did not necessarily know one another. However, the islanders had not necessarily been as unified prior to Elizabeth's invention of the society. In fact, Dawsey's only acquaintance in earlier years had been Eben. Dawsey had been painfully shy, a stutterer, and a farmer working in seclusion — therefore, Elizabeth's spontaneous creation of the society functions as a means for him to finally develop a close social network. Likewise, food and literature — secret food and literature, at that — bring an eclectic bunch together that perhaps would have never leaned on one another for support. Thanks to her own mother, Kit is blessed with a pseudo-family that would go to any lengths to protect her as well as protect one another.

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