Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. Summary and Analysis of Chapter 19-21

The group project puts Margaret in a bad mood for three weeks. Philip Leroy is a bad worker, Norman works too slowly, and though Laura is a good worker, Margaret never tells her so because she's angry and jealous that the other girl has grown up so much faster than she has.

One day Laura makes a comment about needing to go to Confession at church, which makes Margaret wonder what Laura has to confess. Margaret picks a fight with Laura, and accuses her of going behind the A&P with boys. Laura is shocked and denies any such thing; she gets extremely upset and runs away, and Margaret begins to feel bad about what she did, realizing that the story about Laura's activities behind the A&P could be made up.

Margaret catches up with Laura to try to smooth things over, and Laura reveals that her size has always made her feel insecure. She says that she gets picked on because of it and she recounts how embarrassing it was to have to wear a bra in fourth grade and get called dirty names. Margaret apologizes, but Laura is still angry, and stalks off to Confession. Margaret feels like she has some things to confess, and follows; once inside the church, Margaret sits down at a booth and a voice behind a screen asks her to speak. She thinks it's God at first, then realizes it's only the priest. But the only words she can get out are "I'm sorry," and then she runs out of the church. That night, she tells God about the awful things she said to Laura and laments that she only feels God's presence when she's alone.

Just before spring break, a letter arrives. It is from Margaret's maternal grandparents, whom the Simons never speak to, and Margaret's father gets angry that Margaret's mother sent them a Christmas card. Margaret reads the letter herself; her grandparents say they that want to repair relations, and that they'll be flying out for a week to visit and meet Margaret. Margaret realizes that this means she can't go to Florida, and she gets extremely angry. Her mother calls Sylvia to tell her, and when Margaret is put on the phone she reveals to Sylvia that her other grandparents are coming to visit. Margaret is deeply upset, and she prays to God to make something happen so that these long-unseen grandparents won't visit, and so that she can go to Florida.

Both Margaret and her father are unhappy for the whole week leading up to the maternal grandparents' visit, but Margaret's mother asks everyone to understand that, while she hasn't forgiven her parents, she can't refuse to see them. When the Simons go to pick their guests up at the airport, Margaret's mother asks Margaret to understand that her grandparents did what they did to uphold their beliefs. The grandparents are excited to see the family, but Margaret begins to dislike these two relatives immediately. When they all go home, Margaret realizes that this visit is even harder on her father than it is on her.

The Simons and their guests try to make conversation over dinner, but the atmosphere is very tense. Margaret's father is asked about his job, then the talk turns to Margaret's uncle and his wife, and then to Margaret's schoolwork. Eventually, Margaret's grandparents ask how Margaret does in Sunday school; this is when a loaded conversation about religion starts. The two grandparents argue that Margaret has to have a religion, but her parents say that they're letting Margaret choose her own when she gets older. The grandparents argue back that a person must be born into a religion, and since you follow the religion of the mother, Margaret is Christian. Margaret gets up and storms out of the room, saying that she doesn't need a religion, nor does she need God.


A lot occurs in these three chapters, beginning with the Laura Danker incident. As has been explained previously, Margaret's pent-up frustration with her situation, coupled with the natural difficulties of working in almost any group, cause her to take out her annoyances on other people. In the process, she deeply hurts Laura Danker.

Laura's situation is a chilling example of the way children often treat other, perfectly innocent children who are simply different. Just because Laura has grown faster than all the other girls, she is the subject of vicious, hurtful rumors that alienate her from the rest of the class. The admirable thing about Laura, though, is that she never seems to seek revenge; she is quiet and helpful, and only reacts when Margaret confronts her in an extremely rude, even mean-spirited way.

As a result of this incident, Margaret has learned not to make judgments about people before she gets to know them; even more importantly, she's learned not to believe everything she hears about people from outside sources. It's clear that Margaret has never been exposed to many vicious rumors of this sort, since she doesn't know how to handle them; unfortunately, such rumors are a major part of adolescence, so it is unsurprising that gossip of this sort eventually reaches Margaret. In the end, she recognizes that she has made a mistake and apologizes; it can be hoped that Margaret has learned a lesson from this ordeal.

Margaret's experience in the Confession booth plays a pivotal role in her struggle to choose a defining religion. Margaret had acknowledged that she can't feel God's presence in the midst of a large, crowded church service, but this fact could be attributed to the number of people present. Perhaps aside from praying at home, Confession is the most private and personal component of religion, a context in which Margaret has a chance to admit her wrongdoings in the presence only of a priest and of God. But she still doesn't feel what she expects to feel, and in this moment, she realizes that attempting to force herself to feel close to a particular religion—whether Christianity or Judaism—isn't the best tactic.

The coercions of the people in her life don't make it any easier for Margaret to deal with religious questions, either. In light of Margaret's tense conflicts over growing up, making adult choices, and choosing a religion, her maternal grandparents' visit could not have come at a more inopportune time. Of course it is admirable that these relatives are trying to reconcile with the Simons, but clearly these grandparents still remain steadfast in their beliefs and do not understand Margaret's struggle. This is the final straw for the young girl; this visit pushes her to her breaking point, causing her to not only denounce organized religion, but to denounce God, to whom Margaret has always turned for comfort and guidance. She is denying an essential part of who she is because of the pressure she's been put under.