Summary and Analysis
Chapter 32 - Will
The narrative again shifts to Will, who can relate to what Ronnie is going through as he remembers his brother's death — he remembers feeling guilt and numbness and anger and disbelief, as well as wanting to be left alone but also needing to know that he was not alone in the world.
Will's reflections turn toward Steve and his parenting style. Will would like to be a father like Steve has been. Although Will offers to stay and help Ronnie and Jonah, Ronnie refuses to allow Will to change his college plans. Instead, he gives her the macramé bracelet.
In his anger, pain, and frustration, Jonah becomes obsessed with completing the stained-glass window, hoping that this will somehow help his father. But he is too small to reach everything by himself, so he teaches Ronnie and Will how to help him with the window.
The next day Pastor Harris gives them a report about Steve's condition. Will notices the reverend's scarred hands and realizes that he has to come clean to Ronnie.
Will confesses his secret, and Ronnie reacts with a variety of emotions, including anger, hurt, fear, and repulsion. Ronnie refuses to listen to Will as he tries to explain his reasons for covering for Scott and his uncertainty with what he is now going to do. Convinced that she doesn't really know Will at all, Ronnie demands that he leave, effectively ending their relationship.
That night, his last night at home before leaving for Vanderbilt, Will asks his father for a favor, no questions asked.
Will's view of Steve as an ideal father reinforces Pastor Harris' previous comments about a father not expecting perfection. As an outsider, Will is able to provide a more objective opinion than Ronnie, who has all sorts of emotional baggage to deal with. Will sees how important it is that Steve "loved his kids and somehow trusted they were usually smart enough to make the right decision."
In this chapter, Will helps Jonah and Ronnie complete the stained-glass window, thus supplying physical as well as emotional support during this trying time. When Pastor Harris says, "I have faith," he is foreshadowing how the church renovations will get completed. Will's motivation for asking his dad to help him is the only thing that remains unclear: it may be out of love, guilt, sense of what is right, a sense of responsibility to Jonah (or Steve or Pastor Harris), or some combination of these.
The motivation for Will's actions may not be as important as the outcome of the action. Asking for help from his father is one way of accepting responsibility for his actions, which is an important theme explored in this chapter. Ronnie's statement to Will, "Truth only means something when it's hard to admit," is a clear statement of the value and necessity of truth.
What is not as clear is what to do when friendship conflicts with social responsibility. Ronnie sees this as a black and white issue, whereas Will is more emotionally invested in the situation and sees the shades of gray.
Her final words to Will, "I don't trust you, Will. You need to go. Leave!" are a result of her sense of betrayal mixed with her pain at knowing that she is going to lose her father. Ronnie is unable to lash out at her father or her brother, so she lashes out at Will.
Solder to join metal objects with any of various alloys fused and applied to the joint between them without heating the objects to the melting point