Summary and Analysis
PART I Chapter 2. The Anatomy Lesson
In a state of shock, Theo returns to the apartment he shares with his mother. Their emergency plan dictates that regardless of the circumstances, if they are separated, they will meet at the apartment. Theo waits for his mother to return, but when she doesn’t, he calls the emergency telephone number shown on the television news station he watches. He isn’t able to get any information about his mother throughout the night. Finally, two social services workers show up at the apartment. Theo realizes that his life as he knows it is over forever. His mother is dead.
The title of the chapter, “The Anatomy Lesson,” refers to the painting that Theo’s mother always feared seeing as a child, the painting she went back to view, which caused her to leave Theo alone in the museum. Facing the reality of his future without a mother or stability, Theo’s circumstance echoes his mother’s instinct to face down her own childhood fears by viewing the painting that she has always feared. The painting, which depicts a necessary, brutal, educational, and grotesque scene of physicians considering the contents of an opened corpse, correlates directly to Theo’s circumstances as he comes to understand the true darkness of the world: He is forced to regard and analyze the world around him in naked and horrifying detail.