Ella Minnow Pea Themes

Mark Dunn

Ella Minnow Pea

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Ella Minnow Pea Themes

Change versus Tradition 

A tug and pull occurs throughout the novel—characters experience changes such as removed letters and Nollop’s statue crumbling, and tradition is skewed. The Council attempts to perpetuate “tradition” in the sense of Nollop being the island’s namesake: slowly, the Council begins to worship Nollop as an all-knowing entity, as a god. The citizens desire tradition, but not in this extreme sense. Instead, they want the letters back, and push for change themselves. Consider how the citizens fight change (removed letters), but in the process force change—Enterprise 32 is meant to upset the Nollopian belief across the island. If a sentence with all 26 letters of the alphabet and 32 letters total can be created, they can have “tradition” back, with a cost: the removal of Nollop altogether.

Illusion of Power

As the Council begins to force change on the citizens, the citizens begin to believe the Council has more power than they should. The Council is meant to make decisions for the island, but it is not a fully-functional political entity. Each fallen letter represents loss of power to language and, by extension, the citizens. However, each fallen letter results in a new law. Later in the novel, with fewer people on the island and therefore, fewer people to protest, the Council takes their illusion of power to another level: they seize property, they decide an entire religion for the island, and they build places of worship. By taking away language, the Council believes they have all the power, and they do. No one can stop them or question them for fear of being banished.

Individual versus Society 

After the first letter falls, and the Council removes it from the citizens’ vocabulary, each individual is in a fight against their oppressive society. At first, Ella believes the best of her neighbors, but when her aunt, Mittie, is handed her first offence because neighbors turned her in, she realizes that each person is on their own. Instead of banding together, the town is ripped apart by suspicion and revenge. Consider Tassie’s jail time: it represents the culmination of an individual against society….

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