El Deafo Summary & Study Guide

Cece Bell
This Study Guide consists of approximately 40 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of El Deafo.
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El Deafo Summary & Study Guide Description

El Deafo Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on El Deafo by Cece Bell.

NOTE: Due to the structure of this novel, quote paragraph numbers actually refer to panel illustration numbers.

“El Deafo” is a semi-autobiographical young adult graphic novel by Cece Bell. In the novel, an anthropomorphized rabbit version of Cece Bell, known as Cece, struggles to balance her childhood with her deafness. The story begins when Cece is a four year-old rabbit who is living a normal, happy life. She has a loving family, a best friend named Emma, enjoys bike rides with her dad, putting on her mom’s makeup, and watching TV with her older brother and sister, Ashley and Sarah.

When Cece contracts meningitis, she must recover in the hospital. Her illness leads to deafness. Cece is not thrilled when she is fitted with a hearing device because it makes her look markedly different from everyone else. Also, Cece is required to attend special education kindergarten class, where she is placed with other hearing loss kids. While there, Cece learns how to both hear and understand what is being said. For example, the words “bear” and “pear” sound similar, but visual and contextual clues, along with lip-reading, can help Cece distinguish what is being said. For example, a conversation in the woods means the speaker is probably talking about a bear, whereas the speaker rubbing his or her stomach probably means the speaker is talking about a pear. After kindergarten, Cece and her family move to Roanoke, Virginia.

In Roanoke, Cece longs for a new start. She wants to fit in with the other kids in the neighborhood and at school. Although most of them are friendly, Cece’s attempts to make friends are often difficult at best. When she becomes friends with Laura, she discovers just how controlling and mean Laura can be when Laura refuses to let Cece hang out with anyone else. Laura also sics her dog on Cece. She allows the dog to bit Cece. Then, Laura laughs at her. Cece’s next friend, Ginny, is kind enough, but she is overly sensitive to Cece’s deafness. She speaks loudly and slowly. She also introduces Cece to everyone as her “deaf friend,” which ultimately wears thin on Cece. During this time, Cece does her best to be accepted by other kids, to find true friendship, and to deal with her hearing loss. At school, she must wear an even larger, specialized hearing device called the Phonic Ear, which makes Cece feel as if she stands out even more, when all she wants is to fit in. As a result, she invents the superhero alter ego of “El Deafo.” El Deafo possesses superpowers of super hearing. El Deafo becomes an escape from reality for Cece and a role model for real life. For example, El Deafo has no problem standing up to Laura in Cece’s mind. However, in real life, Cece cannot summon the same kind of courage.

Eventually, Cece finds a true friend in Martha, who neither cares about Cece’s hearing loss, nor treats Cece any differently than anyone else. Cece is thrilled, and the girls get along wonderfully –from making dirt soup together to talking about shows they like, to having slumber parties and jumping on Mike’s trampoline. One day, while playing tag with Martha, Cece temporarily injures her eye when she runs into a tree branch. This causes Martha to feel sad and guilty. She blames herself for Cece's injury. As a result, she begins avoiding Cece because she does not want to accidentally hurt Cece again, even though Cece tells Martha it was an accident that had nothing to do with her.

At the same time, Cece works up the courage to have a real conversation with Mike, her crush. She tells him about the amazing range the microphone of her Phonic Ear has and how it allows her to hear things, such as teachers going to the bathroom, and talking. She can hear them talking to other teachers about problematic students, too. Mike finds this amazing. He conducts an experiment with Cece to find out the distance that the Phonic Ear can transmit. The experiment gets the attention of all the kids in the neighborhood. They come to see Cece and her hearing device as cool. This makes Cece very happy. When she alerts her classmates the next day that their teacher is approaching the classroom, it allows the students goofing off to rush back to their seats. Mike calls Cece a hero. At long last, Cece not only feels accepted and liked, but she feels normal and super at the same time –a blending together of her fantasy of El Deafo and real life. At the end of the novel, Cece and Martha renew their friendship and become even stronger friends as a result. Cece goes on to tell Martha all about El Deafo and her true friend, Martha.

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