The Hundred Dresses

The Hundred Dresses Summary and Analysis of 4 The Contest


Thoughts of Wanda distract Maddie as she works on her arithmetic problems. Maddie is glad that she and Peggy did not make fun of Wanda this morning.

While considering multiplication problems, Maddie thinks about how she can’t do anything to undo the bullying she has already participated in. She wishes she had the courage to tell Peggy it is time to stop making fun of Wanda.

Maddie finishes her math problems and starts writing a note to Peggy. Suddenly she pauses and shudders, picturing herself as the new target of schoolyard taunts. Maddie imagines Peggy asking where she got her dress from, and having to admit that it is one of Peggy’s old dresses that Maddie’s mother tried to disguise by sewing new trimming to it. Maddie wishes Peggy would stop on her own accord, and then tears the note to shreds.

Maddie concludes that Peggy is the best-liked girl in school, so what she does can’t be that wrong. Wanda, by contrast, is a loner who lives in Boggins Heights. No one thinks about Wanda unless the teacher calls on Wanda to read in class, and then everybody gets impatient because Wanda reads so slowly. The teacher tries to help, but Wanda stands in silence until told to sit down.

Maddie isn’t sure if Wanda is dumb or simply timid. The only time she talks is in the schoolyard, and she only talks about her hundred dresses, which she describes in detail.

While thinking about Wanda and her dresses, Maddie begins to wonder who would win the drawing and color contest, in which girls would design dresses and boys would design motorboats. Maddie figures that Peggy would win the girls’ medal, because everybody thought Peggy could draw better than anyone else. Miss Mason would announce the winners the next day.

Gradually, thoughts of Wanda sink away from Maddie’s mind; by the time history lesson begins, Maddie has forgotten about Wanda.


The fact that Maddie is distracted by thoughts of Wanda exhibits Maddie’s remorse for not having defended Wanda. Her remorse leads her to attempt to right her wrong by writing a note to Peggy to say that she should stop teasing Wanda. However, Maddie tears up the letter after she foresees herself becoming the object of Peggy’s ridicule.

It is revealed that Maddie sees herself in Wanda. Like Wanda, Maddie is not wealthy. The dresses Maddie wears are handed down from Peggy’s mother, and Maddie’s mother disguises this by sewing new trim to the garments.

As the lesson goes on, Maddie wrestles with her conscience. She concludes that Peggy couldn’t be that bad, considering she is the most popular girl in school—a social consensus that confers on Peggy an innocence that absolves her of responsibility for how she mistreats Wanda.

Maddie struggles with her desire to defend Wanda, because Wanda, in contrast to Peggy, is hardly worthy of consideration: she sits in the back, she can’t read aloud very well, she never laughs, she might be unintelligent, and all she ever talks about is her make-believe dresses. In terms of the classroom’s social hierarchy, Peggy is at the top, while Wanda is at the lowest rung.

The book’s climactic event is set up at the end of the fourth chapter with the introduction of the drawing contest. The social hierarchy of the classroom arises again: due to the consensus that Peggy is the most talented pupil, Maddie assumes not only that Peggy will win, but that she deserves to win. Having moved on to thinking about Peggy, Maddie forgets her concern for Wanda.