Summary and Analysis
April 1982 (I)
David’s photography has gotten enough attention to merit an exhibit and an invited lecture at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Caroline goes to the lecture.
After the lecture, Caroline approaches David. Surprised, he rushes them into a janitor’s closet so that they can talk in private. She tells him she used to be in love with him. David says that he has always known and that was why he could ask her to take Phoebe. He asks how Phoebe is, and Caroline asks whether he really wants to know.
David apologizes for all the trouble he’s caused her. She tells him that Phoebe is fine—the source of a lot of stresses but a lot of moments of joy too. David asks Caroline to stick around until the reception is over. Alone, Caroline decides that she’s had enough to do with David and leaves.
Outside in the rain, Caroline realizes that being in David’s presence has shattered all that she thought and remembered about him. When she gets home, she stands outside and looks inside through the windows. Phoebe is at the weaving loom with her kitten, Rain, on her lap, and Al is home. Caroline feels content with her life.
Seeing David allows Caroline finally to break free from her past. She realizes that for 20 years she’s been imagining him as a young man. Part of her has been stuck in an old mind-set in which she and David share a special connection, a secret love. When she understands that she’s held on to the past in a delusional way, she’s able to accept that her motives were not altogether pure when she chose to keep Phoebe. She’s now able to carry on with life without the dead weight of David Henry holding her down.
At the exhibit, surrounded by David’s photos—symbols of control and secrecy—Caroline realizes that she never understood David. And when she looks at a photo David took of Norah in the sand, she realizes that she’s always considered Norah Henry “a bit imperial, used to ease and order,” but really doesn’t know much about Norah’s life. In losing her imagined superiority over Norah and her delusional memories of David, Caroline gains the freedom to move on from her past and claim the life she sees through the windows of her house as her own.