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Realistic Fiction: A Mango-Shaped Space

Imagine sitting in the back of the classroom on the hard dark blue plastic chair attached to a table with a little metal pole. While the class continues various side conversations flit across your vision. Cherry reds, deep purple polka dot and non opaque blobs of tangerine orange all converging in front of your eyes.

Throughout the realistic fiction A Mango Shaped Space written by Wendy Mass, Mia the story’s diffident protagonist living in northern Illinois, struggles to figure out and accept who she is.

Along her journey to come to terms with who she is she has some help for example her friend who is just like Mia- named Adam.

However, along the way she also loses important things in order to fulfill her journey of self discovery. Mia exhibits characteristics of the Modern hero archetype. Mia encounters and fulfills a modified version of the hero’s journey which ultimately does not lead her to contribute to her own society like listed in the Hero’s Journey archetype paper F38.

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Mia goes from being ashamed of her her ability to see colors- synesthesia- and thinking she is weird and different to being proud of them them and realizing that they make her who she is. Mia’s journey as the protagonist in A Mango Shaped Space prompts the books thematic message to be revealed : be yourself, being the same as everyone else is not always a good thing.

Mia is a modern hero because, she is an ‘everyman’ , an ordinary thirteen year old girl who just happens to have special colored hearing.

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Mia could also be considered a modern hero because she has weaknesses that make her seem more human.

For example, Mia feels different from her peers which results in her viewing herself as a freak. Throughout the book Mia is a very relatable character for the reader. Mia states her logic of , ” thinking that if i wrote slowly enough, the bell might ring before I could finish· Then no one would know that I couldn’t solve the problem” ( Mass 1). As humans, we tend to try and cover up our weaknesses and struggles.

In this case it’s Mia’s struggles with math. Mia becomes a more relatable character when she shares that she tries to hide her struggle with the subject in order for other people to not know, in order for her to not feel everyone’s judgement- not necessarily verbal but the even worse silent judgement that you feel when you sit down and can feel people’s eyes on your back and know that they are judging you.

Mia makes herself a relatable character when she states, ” As soon as I walk into the the art room and pick a stool at one of the worktables, I feel like I’m home.” (pg 41). Mainly, everyone has their one place that they feel calm and like they can be free to be themselves without judgement.

For some, that place may be their home , classroom or, in some cases it’s not a place but rather a thing. For example, in a sketchbook you can be free to do whatever you want without fear of judgement because, it is your own personal book that you never have to show anyone if you don’t want to.

This makes it easier to have an outlet to let out stress, relax and express your feelings without being judged by others. Not having to worry about being judged takes off a lot of the pressure to be perfect. Mia could also be considered a modern hero because she struggles for insight. Mia doesn’t claim to know all the answers and often through the story she has a hard time discovering the answers on her own and ultimately, requires helps from other wiser parties.

Mia fits some of the hero’s journey archetype but not all. To start the story, a call to adventure is fulfilled. Mia starts off by receiving a revelation that she is the only one who can see the colors, “Numbers don’t have colors, they simply have a shape and a numerical value, that’s all”(pg 3).

This revelation causes her to start her journey into the unknown of her unusual colored world. Mia only half fits the stage of refusing the call, she does not refuse it but her parents want her to get rid of her colors instead of discovering more about them. Nonchalantly, Mia states “I mean, I can’t imagine life without my colors. My mother doesn’t look too pleased with my response”, (Mass 89).

The next stage Mia fulfills, is the stage of crossing the threshold to the unknown. Mia crosses the threshold at the pinnacle of the story when she discovers the website for synesthesia. After this time she tries various things that she never knew about before to discover more about herself including acupuncture even if that means going behind her parents backs to do so.

There’s no noise; all the multicolored balls, zigzags, and spirals are coming from inside me. I slowly open my eyes, and things are a little calmer now. The glow around Faith is ten times as vibrant as it was the first time, and the last vestige of guilt caused by lying to my parents leaves me.

I’m sure they wouldn’t deny me this experience if they knew about it”(160). The fifth stage that applies in A Mango Shaped Space is apostasis- a physical or spiritual death- her figurative death is loss of her colors and the rebirth is the gaining back of her colors or, finding who she is. The last stage of the seventeen stage hero’s Journey cycle is the freedom to Live this stage is fulfilled at the very end of the book when Mia stops blaming herself for Mango’s death.

Mia changes her mindset on her colors throughout the novel. From the beginning of the book it is revealed that she wishes she does not have her colors, “I learned to guard my secret well,” (4) but, by the middle of the book that changes and she realises, “I can’t imagine life without my colors”(pg 89).

People tend to base decision off of others opinions ideas or approval even though we shouldn’t. Throughout the sensory language filled book Wendy Mass, crafts in the thematic message of being unique and being yourself is better than being like everyone else and being worried about what others think.

Works Cited

  • Mass, Wendy. A Mango-Shaped Space: a Novel. Little, Brown, 2010.
  • Kelly, Cary, and Kathleen Coughlin. F33 Archetypal/Mythological/Jungian Approaches to Literary Criticism Packet. Woodside High School, 2018.
  • Kelly, Cary, and Kathleen Coughlin. F38 Hero’s Journey Packet. Woodside High School, 2018.

Cite this page

Realistic Fiction: A Mango-Shaped Space. (2019, Dec 01). Retrieved from

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