From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler Literary Elements


Children's Literature; Fiction

Setting and Context

New York in the 1960s; the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Narrator and Point of View

The narrator is an elderly woman named Mrs. Frankweiler, who is telling the story of Claudia and Jamie to her lawyer Saxonberg. Thus, technically it is a first-person narrative, but Mrs. Frankweiler steps away from the narrative so frequently that it often seems to be third person.

Tone and Mood

The tone and mood of the book is very light and humorous.

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonists are two children, Jamie and Claudia. Their story is told by an elderly woman named Mrs. Frankweiler, who does not take a central place in the narrative until late in the story. The antagonists are mostly vague and nonthreatening - the guards at the Met, the parents of Jamie and Claudia, and so on.

Major Conflict

Claudia wants to find some way to feel different, which she initially accomplishes by running away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After she discovers the statue of Angel, the conflict becomes the struggle to find out who created Angel.


At the end of the novel, the children must go through Mrs. Frankweiler's very mixed-up files to find out the truth about Angel. This is culmination of all of their efforts so far.


Early in the novel, Claudia takes charge of her littlest brother, Kevin, with great annoyance. Kevin is also annoyed: he wants it to be his brother Steve's turn to take care of him. “'I wish it could be Steve’s turn every week,' Kevin whined. 'You just may get your wish,' Claudia replied. Kevin never realized then or ever that he had been given a clue, and he pouted all the way home" (pg. 18). Claudia and Jamie soon run away from home; this comment foreshadows this action.




When Jamie becomes overdramatic while telling the story of his week in the museum to Mrs. Frankweiler, she snaps, "You're not Sir Lawrence Olivier playing Hamlet, you know" (pg. 155). This is a reference to the 1948 production of Hamlet that starred actor Lawrence Olivier; he later won Best Actor for this role.


See Imagery section.


When the children discuss adopting Mrs. Frankweiler as their grandmother, Jamie notes that "She'll be the only woman in the world to become a grandmother with never becoming a mother first" (pg. 16). Most women become grandmothers when their children have children; paradoxically, Mrs. Frankweiler never had children but she is a grandmother anyway.


Mrs. Frankweiler's personality is somewhat of a combination of Jamie's and Claudia's. She has Claudia's interest in fine things, as well as her intelligence and her impatience with things that irritate her. She also has Jamie's sense of humor and tendency to cheat at cards. She has parallels with both the children.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

From the trashcan, Claudia pulls out a 10-ride ticket that has only 9 tides stamped out on it. "From a litter of lipstick kisses, Claudia had plucked a free ride" (pg. 10). She is not pulling out a ride, but rather a ticket that can purchase a ride. This is an attribute of a thing made to represent the whole, making it an example of synecdoche.