Stucture

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Beginning

"The Terrapin" begins in media res (in the middle of events) with Victor hiding a book from his mother who is about to come home: “Victor heard the elevator door open, his mother’s quick footsteps in the hall, and he flipped his book shut. He shoved it under the sofa…”

From the first lines, the story suggests that there is a conflict between Victor and his mother and that the boy probably fears her.

Through the characters’ in…

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Middle

The first part of the rising action focuses on Victor’s relationship with his mother. Tension points and backstories help readers understand that Victor feels emotionally abused by his mother. For example, Victor is irritated that his mother makes him name the days of the week, even though he is 11 years old.

A backstory reveals that the characters moved from “their Riverside drive apartment” to where they are living now, on “Third Avenue.”.

The episode when the mother shows Victor her children’s illustrations and asks his opinion prompts Victor’s memories. These memories function as another backstory, which reveals that the mother has not been successful since Victor was seven years old and that Victor does not like or care about her illustrations.

Instead, he continues to be frustrated by the fact that she makes him wear very short pants and recalls being humiliated by another boy whom he would have liked to befriend. This is another tension point in the story:…

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Ending

In the falling action, Victor snaps at his mother for the way she killed the terrapin, and she slaps him again. Victor goes to the living room and weeps over the death of the terrapin: “Then he wept soundlessly as the terrapin, his mouth open.”.

However, he returns to the kitchen and watches his mother cut up and cook the dead turtle, unable to look away: “Victor wanted to look away, but still he stared. Now the terrapin’s insides were all exposed…”.

His mother’s reaction, calling Victor “crazy” for staring at her while she cooks th…

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