Ella Minnow Pea Chapters 1-3 Summary & Analysis

Mark Dunn

Ella Minnow Pea

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Ella Minnow Pea Chapters 1-3 Summary & Analysis


The chapter opens with a letter from the title character, Ella, to her cousin Tassie. Ella explains to Tassie, who has been away in the States, that while she was away, some events happened on their home island, Nollop. The island is named after Nevin Nollop, who came up with a concise pangram, or sentence containing all the letters of the alphabet: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” The island’s inhabitants honored Nollop with a statue with a plaque that bears the famous sentence.

While Tassie was away, the statue began to crumble! Ella details the events in the letter, beginning with the “Z” falling off the statue. A girl from town brings the fallen letter to the island Council, and, despite Ella and others’ rational explanations (it fell because of age), the Council comes to another conclusion: “the fall of the tile bearing the letter ‘Z’ constitutes the terrestrial manifestation of an empyrean Nollopian desire, that desire most surely being that the letter ‘Z’ should be utterly excised—fully extirpated—absolutively heavenho’ed from our communal vocabulary” (6).

Ella welcomes the challenge of not using the letter “Z” and feels it will not be missed. Tassie is upset by the news: “My friend Rachalle…reminds me that with the prohibition the reading of all books containing the unfortunate letter will have to be outlawed as well” (9). She fears the outfall from their language being controlled by the Council. In a subsequent letter from Ella to Tassie, Ella announces that Tassie is correct—all the books are gone. 


“Z” is officially removed from the community and cannot be used else the user or the person in possession of a written use of the letter be punished. Tassie writes to Ella about the fear among the townsfolk in the hills. Tassie’s mother tells her, “I am angry and rebellious. In my head, I am reciting what I recall of my niece’s last letter, allowing the illegal words to baste and crisp. I cook the words, serve them up, devour them greedily. In the sanctuary of my thoughts, I…

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