Summary and Analysis July 1977



Norah, David, and Paul, now a teenager, are vacationing in Aruba, a trip that Norah won by selling trips at the travel agency, which she owns now. David is photographing her in the sand and experimenting with form. Norah feels very distant from David.

A man named Howard stops to meet them on the beach. Immediately Norah senses chemistry with him. Howard and David connect over the art of photography. Howard explains that he has constructed a camera obscura, an old-time device for projecting images inside a small dark box. Paul returns from a run and takes a quick liking to Howard, who compliments him for running cross-country. David says that he wishes Paul would play basketball, a comment that irritates Norah.

Howard comes to dinner that evening, and eventually they look at David’s photos. Before leaving, once it is dark, Howard puts his hand in the pocket of Norah’s dress. He mentions to David and Norah again that he has made a camera obscura and that he could show it to them.

The next day, with David and Paul gone fishing, Norah goes to Howard’s house. Outside on the beach, she poses in front of the camera obscura for Howard, shedding her clothes until she is naked, dropping her bathing suit with flamingos on it onto the sand. They go inside and have sex. Norah goes to Howard’s several more times on the trip, even though Howard is married and she finds a letter from his wife.


Norah is becoming precisely who she did not want to become. She’s always abhorred Bree’s promiscuity, and yet now she has become promiscuous. She’s always feared becoming a stereotypical feminine object, and yet now she’s posing for David’s and Howard’s photos. One thing can be said for certain: She’s taking control of her own life. Norah’s hard work has won her a higher position and placed her here in Aruba, where she can momentarily free herself from the confines of her marriage to David. When she stands in front of the camera obscura, she feels empowered.

This chapter also introduces a new shade of meaning to the symbolism of photographs and photography. Until now, David and Norah have used photos as a method of capturing and controlling the world. Norah tried to hold on to the memory of her daughter by taking pictures of the old house, and David tried to capture moments of stability in a chaotic world. But in this chapter, David and Norah, while still hoping to exercise control, find that photographs are useful for concealing secrets as well. David is experimenting with ambiguity in his compositions. Norah, in turn, becomes a completely different woman in front of Howard’s camera obscura, which David will never see. Previously secure and reliable in meaning, photographs are becoming ambiguous and open to many interpretations that change the moment you think you understand them.