Summary and Analysis
This chapter is concerned mainly with giving the background to Hightower's life. We hear these things not from Hightower but from the town. It will be the end of the novel before we hear Hightower's view of these events and then it will be only as he re-examines them in a search for the truth.
What is clear here is that Hightower is influenced by some event connected with his grandfather's being shot while riding a horse. This event makes him want to remain in Jefferson in spite of the indignations that he suffers. Furthermore, Hightower seems in some way partly responsible for his wife's death, but this full realization comes at the end of the novel.
Hightower's view is that all he wants is to be left alone. By this he means that he wants the town to let him live in peace and quiet. This is one way of denying life, or refusing to become a participant in life, thus becoming a type of vegetable instead of a human being.
This chapter also prepares us for Hightower's attempt to escape life by living for some event in the past. The past has such a strong hold upon him that we discover he used any method available to him in order to secure a position in Jefferson and furthermore, he has undergone the tremendous suffering so that he can remain in Jefferson. Only later will Hightower be able to live again in the present and accept his rightful role in society.