Summary and Analysis
Ronnie lashes out at her father for not telling her about the illness. She accuses him of bringing her to North Carolina for the summer in order to watch him die, but Steve explains that he wanted to watch her live, and he asks for and receives Ronnie's forgiveness. When Ronnie finally looks at her father and notices that he is literally wasting away, she realizes that she was oblivious to the signs all summer.
Ronnie's thought prompts Steve to comment, "Maybe watching you enjoy a carefree summer while you fell in love was what kept me out of the hospital in the first place." Ronnie watches him and feels alone.
Later, Ronnie gets Jonah from the waiting room to escort him to see their father and find out the truth. Ronnie does not want to ever forget her father and realizes that she does not really know him.
Ronnie talks with Pastor Harris, who tells her that he will stay at the hospital that night so Ronnie can take Jonah home. Will spends the night with Ronnie in order to help out. Although Ronnie attempts to push him away, Will refuses to listen to her, and he holds her tight.
Later that night, Ronnie looks through Steve's Bible and ends up praying herself — for the first time in years.
Chapter 31 chronicles Ronnie's reaction to the news of her father's illness and impending death. She thinks it is not fair and focuses on how the news is going to affect her. Talking with her father enables Ronnie to begin to understand his decisions. They initially have divergent views regarding living and dying, but Steve has had a longer time to come to grips with his cancer, so they are at different stages of grief.
To capture the emotional upheaval that Ronnie is feeling, Sparks uses anaphora — the repetition of the sentence beginnings, in this case "She needed" — to illustrate the way Ronnie is mentally processing the news and what effect Steve's impending death has on her life. Three effects are achieved with this usage:
- The repetition of "she" puts the emphasis is on her, for the antecedent of the pronoun clearly refers to Ronnie.
- The repetition of the verb "needed," in contrast to the verb "wanted," demonstrates how emotionally invested Ronnie has become in the relationship with her father.
- The list of what follows "she needed" moves from the concrete to the abstract, from time to love to a sense of eternity.
After listing what she needed, Ronnie thinks, "She knew it wouldn't happen." The juxtaposition of what she wants and what she knows reinforces the range of emotions that Ronnie is experiencing.
This chapter also shows how Ronnie has matured: For once, she is thinking of others, admitting to having made bad choices, and accepting help. As Ronnie processes the information about her father's illness, she feels alone and scared. Ronnie does not know this, but these are the exact feelings Steve had when he first got confirmation of his cancer. And like Steve, Ronnie also turns to God.
Chemotherapy the treatment of disease by means of chemicals that have a specific toxic effect cancerous tissue
Malignant a tumor that invades surrounding tissues, is usually capable of producing metastases, may recur after attempted removal, and is likely to cause death unless adequately treated
Hospice a healthcare facility for the terminally ill that emphasizes pain control and emotional support for the patient and family