Who is the Antagonist of Moon over Manifest: Conflict in Slice-of-Life

The Curious Case of Google Queries:

Be careful on those tracks!
"Antagonist in Moon over Manifest"
"Who is the antagonist of Moon over Manifest?"
Ever since I did an extremely brief review of Moon over Manifest back in September, I had been receiving these Google queries, with several other variations.

These minor results were quite curious, but it makes sense this blog are receiving them. It's a Newbery book, and therefore prime classroom and out-of-the-classroom material. Plus, there is little to no Internet buzz about it.

I re-read the book just to answer this question. It feels wrong to ignore it, if I keep being asked it indirectly for months.

So, for the elementary and middle school students who asked this question, along with the readers who picked this book up on your own accord here's your answer!

(And for the regular blog readers...stay around! I have something for you guys also!)

The Short Answer:

"Who is the antagonist of Moon over Manifest"?

Short answer: It's not one person.

Conflict in Slice-of-Life:

Get it? Slice-of-pizza!
First of all, consider Moon over Manifest's genre. It's a slice-of-life.

I'll take a page out of Ms. Hardy's book and define it as this: a slice-of-life story is a chronicle of a character's growth through a series of event.

That isn't the only incident, as there're plenty of other stories with ensembles where the point are the incidents, but in a novel, a character arc of any sort is essential. In this case, it's Abilene, who has been sent away by her father.

Her journey is to find her father's place in the dying town of Manifest.

Setting in Moon over Manifest:

What's unique about this book, which makes it a prime example of what deserves a Newbery (as opposed to another certain story I won't mention that purely relies on you crying), is the fact that there are two timelines:

  • the "present" story (Great Depressions' 1936)
  • the "past" story (World War I's 1918)

Both are fleshed out with their cast of characters, with plenty of incidents and events happening in both. The 1918 timeline is being told in-story by Ms. Sadie, a "diviner".

And what makes the whole "who is the antagonist" case even more tangled up is the fact that there is a second protagonist in the 1918 timeline, Jinx.

And since Abilene and Jinx's stories and character arcs are separate (although related), it further complicates the case of who is the antagonist. Spooky, huh?

Conflict in Incidents:

Sort of like this.
At its core, a slice-of-life is a series of incidents. For the most part, they're often self-contained or tangentially connected, which is more obvious in the 1918 timeline. Like scenes in most plot-driven books, each incident has their own opposers, the ones that create the conflict. 

In a way, many slice-of-life stories can be considered a series of closely related short stories, although Moon over Manifest's incidents have an overlying arc binding them together.

For instance, are the mine owners to blame? How about that person that almost cheated Ned out of the shell game?

How about the nun that assigned Abilene a story for the summer? Or Ms. Sadie, who makes her work her yard to pay off breaking that pot?

Technically, there can be those many antagonists, but it's too complicated to think of it that way.

The Long Answer:

Spoilers ahead!

In my opinion, to find the true "anatagonists" for the timelines, we have to examine the character arcs.

So, let me do a little work for you:

  • Abilene's Character Arc: Find her father's place in the town of Manifest.
  • Jinx's Character Arc: Stay away from his uncle by staying int he town of Manifest.

While it's obvious Jinx's uncle, Finn, is an antagonist, it's a more complicated situation with Abilene. Her father, Gideon, is practically absent from the 1836 timeline. However, he's the one that sent her daughter to Manifest and start off the entire plot of the present story in the first place.

And considering that Gideon was Jinx...


While the above was a little confusing, I hoped I was clear enough on explaining this. Moon over Manifest is a great book, and I want to have a hand on helping people understand it more.

So, if you happen to receive an assignment to pick the antagonist of Moon over Manifest, you have two answers: "there is no one antagonist", or "Gideon and Finn". Use the information you find here to provide an explanation, and don't forget to use your own knowledge of the book for details.

If your teacher objects, feel free to show him or her this post.


If you found this  helpful, please, please, please comment below! You don't need an account or even an e-mail in order to give feedback. 

If you have any objections or corrections, feel free to vent them toward me! It's better than empty air. ;)