Hattie, we're told right off, is deaf, but it's soon apparent that that's not her only problem. From the first we're bombarded with demonstrations of her forgetfulness, perpetual panic, bumbling awkwardness, fear of people and feelings of inadequacy. Still her personality remains a blur, probably because despite the pains she takes to make things clear to the reader, MacIntyre never seems to see the character clearly herself. Though Hattie rudely rushes off from a friendly fellow art student because she can't understand what the other gift is saying to her (then reproaches herself, ""What an awful thing to do to such a nice person""), she observes later that she ""never had trouble understanding nice people."" On one page she is ""perfectly happy"" the way she is but soon afterwards she's wishing she could ""run away from herself."" The cause of her discontent, it seems, is her ""perfect"" magazine editor mother who runs the house according to an image that Hattie can't live up to; that's why she identifies with the purple mouse, one of her brother Mike's lab animals who is rejected by his white cagemates after Hattie accidentally dips him in Mike's experimental dye. But between older sister Sandra who gives her old dresses and a new hairdo and the mouse who provides inspiration (""I see everything differently since I've known this mouse. He never gives up, just goes on and on until everything works out all right""), Hattie gains so much confidence that she's able to make an uplifting adventure out of catching the wrong bus during a rainstorm. (""Purple mouse people are stronger after storms."") Like Hattie's hearing aid, MacIntyre amplifies the signals without cutting out the noise.