Summary and Analysis March 1964 (IV)

Summary

Caroline is still stranded in the grocery store parking lot. Al Simpson, a trucker parked in the parking lot, shelters her and Phoebe in his rig until the snowstorm lets up. They then drive to her apartment to sleep for the night. Caroline wakes up to Al cooking breakfast. They eat, and then he leaves.

Lucy Martin, the town gossip, comes over hoping Caroline will tell her something about Al. Caroline tells her that Al is her cousin whose wife has brain cancer, and she’s taking care of their baby. She surprises and pleases herself by lying so easily.

Caroline stays in her house for the next two days, certain that David will take back Phoebe when his shock subsides. When she sees an ad for Phoebe’s memorial service in the paper, she calls David and leaves a message. An hour later, he comes over. Convinced that David is a good man, she explains that the institution he wanted to send his daughter to is horrific. He says that the baby is in her hands now, gives her money, and tenderly kisses her hand. He says he’ll make sure she doesn’t get blamed for taking Phoebe if she decides to step forward and tell people what he did.

The next morning Caroline decides to go away with Phoebe. She stops at the funeral service, observing unseen, and then heads to Pittsburgh, afraid and excited.

Analysis

Like Norah in the previous chapter, Caroline finds herself in various situations in which women are expected to act a certain way. In the parking lot talking to Al, she realizes that she’s playing the “damsel in distress,” a role she always made fun of but one that fits her present circumstances. Her neighbor Lucy expects Caroline to gab about her relationship with a man, but the lie that Caroline tells Lucy introduces complexity into the character that Lucy expects her to be. When David comes over and kisses her on the hand, she realizes that it feels natural and good to have his affection. Like Norah, her ability to live creatively within these roles, neither bowing to them nor totally escaping them, will determine who she can become later in the novel.

Caroline also begins to become aware of society’s prejudice against Phoebe. That David Henry, a man she has always admired for the way he cares for the broken and hurting, can so easily cast away a baby with Down syndrome and even announce that she is dead proves to Caroline that she’s on her own. The world is so insensitive to Phoebe’s needs that it won’t—cannot—take notice of her. Caroline’s own care for Phoebe, meanwhile, is becoming stronger. When Phoebe cries during the night, Caroline gets up and, though tired, moves through the dark “as if through water.” She’s connected to Phoebe as Norah is to Paul.


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