The Hundred Dresses

The Hundred Dresses Summary and Analysis of 5 The Hundred Dresses


The next day, a Thursday, it is drizzling rain. Maddie and Peggy share Peggy’s umbrella as they hurry to school. Because of the bad weather, they don’t stop on Oliver Street, to wait for Wanda. Plus, they don’t want to be late, because Miss Mason is supposed to announce the drawing contest winners. Maddie reassures Peggy that she will win.

The girls gasp when they enter Room 13. Drawings cover every wall surface, with dazzling colors and brilliant designs. There must be one hundred drawings. The students stand around and admire the excellent work.

Miss Mason announces that the winning boy is Jack Beggles, whose design of an outboard motorboat is on display with the other boys’ work in Room 12. Miss Mason says that most girls submitted only one or two designs, but Wanda Petronski handed in one hundred different designs, all of which were very different and very beautiful. In Miss Mason’s opinion, any one of Wanda’s drawings is worthy of the prize. She is happy to say that Wanda has won the medal, though unfortunately, she is absent and thus not able to receive the applause she deserves.

The class claps and stomps on the ground. They get up and admire Wanda’s drawings. Maddie and Peggy whisper about how they recognize the different dresses Wanda had claimed to own. Meanwhile, the principal’s monitor delivers a note to Miss Mason, who then claps her hands and asks the class to return to their seats.

The mood grows tense as Miss Mason adjusts her glasses before she reads aloud the note from Wanda’s father, Jan Petronski. The note is written in slightly ungrammatical language that indicates that Wanda’s father’s first language is not English. He says that Wanda and Jake will no longer come to school because they are moving to the city, where they will not be shouted at and called “Polack,” or asked about their funny last name. He says there are plenty of funny names in the city.

Miss Mason wipes off her glasses and, in a low voice, tells the class that she is sure no one meant to hurt Wanda’s feelings just because her name was long and unfamiliar; she prefers to assume that whatever was said, it was said out of thoughtlessness. She asks the class to think about the sad and unfortunate thing that has happened.

During study period, Maddie has a sick feeling in her stomach. While she hadn’t enjoyed hearing Peggy tease Wanda, she also hadn’t done anything to protect Wanda. Maddie had stood by silently, which is just as bad, maybe worse, but ultimately cowardly. She had helped make Wanda so unhappy that she moved away.

Maddie wonders if she could fix things by telling Wanda that she hadn’t meant to hurt her feelings. Maddie looks over at Peggy, who has her face in her book, as though studying hard. Whether or not Peggy feels similar remorse, Maddie concludes that she is going to do something. She and Peggy could go to Boggins Heights and tell Wanda that she was smart and that her hundred dresses were beautiful.

When school is dismissed, Peggy surprises Maddie by saying that they should go and see if Wanda has left town yet. Maddie glows, pleased that Peggy has had the same idea and that Peggy is a good person after all, just as Maddie had always thought.


The fifth chapter opens with miserable weather, which sets an ominous tone for the revelation to come. The grim weather also creates a gloomy atmosphere against which the hundred bright, colorful drawings in the classroom are contrasted.

Miss Mason announces that Wanda submitted the many beautiful drawings of dress designs. Peggy, Maddie, and the entire class are so impressed by the drawings that they realize they have been wrong about Wanda, and that she had hidden talents and brilliance. While she probably didn’t have the physical dresses she spoke of, she was able to translate the dresses in her imagination onto paper.

Just as the students are assimilating this new perspective on Wanda, the story reaches its climax when Miss Mason reads the letter from Wanda’s father and resolves the story’s central conflict—Wanda’s mysterious absence).

Mr. Petronski’s status as an immigrant is evident in the letter’s grammar and in the references he makes to he and his family being called “Polack,” a derogatory term for Polish people. He says they are moving to the city, where there are lots of funny last names. By this, he suggests that greater ethnic diversity will mean his children don’t stick out as different, and this will insulate them from prejudice.

Having heard the letter, Maddie’s remorse returns. She dwells on how she should have stood up for Wanda, and wonders how she could make it up to her. To Maddie’s surprise, Peggy has the same idea of going to Boggins Heights to apologize to Wanda. Maddie is pleased to think that her best friend is a good person after all, as Peggy intends to redeem herself.