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THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS
CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES
Note: In the original text, there are no chapter numbers. We have inserted chapter numbers into this study guide for ease of use and continuity. They do not correspond to the actual text, which uses various quotations as the title of each chapter.
“Not All Who Wander Are Lost.” - J. R. R. Tolkien
The prologue is a narrative by Carmen, the Puerto Rican girl who first found the blue jeans in a thrift shop. She tells the reader all about the pants from the perspective of their magic. They came to the girls through what Carmen calls a painful life transition and that is what becomes The Way of the Pants. Carmen only bought them, because she was tagging along with her friend Lena and her mother, and Mrs. Kaligaris hated second hand shops. They were only $3.49 including tax, and she didn’t even try them on. She really wasn’t serious about owning them, because “her butt had specific requirements for pants.” When she got home, she put the pants in the back of her closet and forgot about them.
On the afternoon before the girls were all going their separate ways for the summer, the pants came out again. Carmen was going to South Carolina to hang out with her dad; Lena was spending two months in Greece with her grandparents; Bridget was flying off to soccer camp in Baja, California; and Tibby was staying home. This would be the first summer this very close group of friends would be apart, and it seemed to give them all a shaky, strange feeling. Their lives had been marked by the summers they had spent together, when their lives joined completely. They had started out together even before they were born. Their mothers had met in a class of aerobics for pregnant women, and the four girls were born within a few weeks of each other at the end of the summer. The mothers were called the September Group, and they began hanging out after class. This lasted until the girls were about three when the mothers began to drift apart, and the friendship began to be about their daughters rather than them. So the girls became the Septembers, and even though they were all different types, they became committed to each other.
Why? Because they loved each other, and they were nice to each other, and that was rare. Carmen’s mother told her it wouldn’t stay that way, but the girls believed it would. The pants became their talisman upon which they made a promise to always stick together, and when they went out into the world with all its challenges, they promised to find a way to make it work.
The purpose of the Prologue is to introduce the reader to the Septembers - four young girls who have been friends since they were in their mother’s wombs and who now must face their first summer apart. It prepares the reader for their character types and their commitment to each other. It sets up the “magic” of the traveling pants and how each of them wears them and learns something very valuable about what Carmen calls “painful life transitions.”
“Luck Never Gives: It Only Lends” - Ancient Chinese Proverb
The pants came out at Carmen’s house where all the girls had met the afternoon before they were all to leave. Tibby was the most upset about everyone going their separate ways. They all tried to help her adjust to the idea by giving pep talks and even lecturing her not to wallow in her sorrow. Tibby saw the pants on top of Carmen’s clothes and told her to give them to her as a sign of unconditional love. Carmen had been planning to throw them away anyway and saw it as a way to comfort Tibby whose only “adventure” for the summer would be a job at Wallman’s Drugstore. So, Tibby was the first to try on the pants which the others thought will never fit her, because her build was so different than Carmen’s. Lo and behold, the pants fit her like a glove and made her finally look like a girl after wearing oversized clothes all the time. Tibby, however, was unsure and insisted that the other girls try on the pants as well. They looked fabulous on Lena also, which wasn’t difficult given that Lena was a very attractive, nicely built young lady. Tibby thought the pants were transforming. Then, Bridget tried them on and again, the pants were perfect. Finally, even though they thought it would be impossible for them to look good on Carmen’s bigger behind, she, too, tried them on. The other girls were speechless at how good she looked and labeled her a supermodel. Carmen held her breath and looked in the mirror again and pronounced what they were all thinking: “These are magic pants!”
Bridget then proposed that this discovery warranted a trip to Gilda’s. Gilda’s was the now empty and abandoned gym where their mothers had met in the aerobics class, and sometimes they gathered food and blankets and other accessories and spent time there together. They had broken into the place at least once a year for the last three years, and it had become their special spot to be together and help each other resolve their problems. They would follow the picture of their four moms, pregnant and posing on the indented floorboards back in the 80’s, by sitting in approximately the same spots. They lit some candles and placed the pants on a blanket in the middle of their circle. Bridget then ceremonially pronounced that the Pants belonged to all of them and that they would travel to all these places the four of them were going as a way to keep them together when they were apart. They all took the “Vow of the Traveling Pants” which meant they promised to take the love between them wherever they went. Then, they wrote down the rules for wearing them and when each one would receive them. They also agreed to inscribe on the pants the memories of the summer to help them share their time apart once they were back together.
It was decided that Lena would have the pants first, followed by Tibby. After that would be Carmen and finally Bridget. They would keep the pants no more than a week unless they felt the need to have them a little longer. They wrote up the final rules and they were officially a Sisterhood.
The solemnity of their official organization called The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants might seem silly to others who have never engaged in such promises, but for the four girls, it is as serious as it gets. The pants for some strange reason fit them all perfectly and accentuate the best qualities of each of their bodies. They give them all a boost in self-esteem and help them face their first summer apart. The pants transform each of them in some positive way and so offer hope for what the summer will bring.Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version