Summary and Analysis November 1988

Summary

Caroline, Al, Phoebe, and Phoebe’s new boyfriend Robert, who has Down syndrome, go to a dance at the Upside Down Society. Recently lawyers contacted Caroline explaining that David died and she needs to claim the money he set up for Phoebe. Caroline hasn’t told Al yet that David is dead.

At the dance, Caroline hears that Phoebe has been sent to the kitchen to get more punch and goes to help. There she finds Robert and Phoebe kissing and breaks them up. They say they’re in love and plan to get married. Caroline tells Phoebe that she can’t get married; Phoebe says that it’s not fair she can’t get married and have babies.

The next week Caroline gets a call: Al crashed his rig and broke a leg. He stays at home while he heals under Caroline’s care.

One night Phoebe and Robert show up at home without being picked up from work. They say again they’re going to get married. Caroline is angry. Robert gives her a bouquet of roses because it’s Saturday, the day when Al usually comes home from a trucking run with gifts, and the gesture touches Caroline.

Caroline tells Al that there’s a lot of money in the account David left Phoebe. With Phoebe taken care of financially, she tells him, perhaps it would be possible for Phoebe to live on her own.


Analysis

Phoebe has found a sweetheart in Robert, just as Paul did with Michelle in the previous chapter. But the similarities in the siblings’ situations end there. Once again, Phoebe faces prejudices trying to live a typical life. Earlier the prejudice was about public school; now the prejudice is about marriage. And this time her opponent isn’t the government or broader society. It’s Caroline.

Caroline comes very close to being what she’s never wanted to be—controlling and overly protective like David was—but then snaps back to the compassionate, courageous person she’s been throughout the novel. Before that happens, however, she purposely ruins an important moment between Robert and Phoebe in their development as persons—a first kiss—then embarrasses them and argues Phoebe into submission. Caroline is acting selfishly: As she tells Al later, she can’t imagine Phoebe leading a life of her own.

Two events help Caroline regain her senses. The first is Al’s crash: Because she wants to spend more time with him, it becomes easier to let Phoebe have more independence. Bree’s cancer makes Norah want to know her sister better, and Al’s crash reminds Caroline of the necessity of love and compassion. The second event is the gift of flowers from Phoebe and Robert, which convinces Caroline that they’re serious about their plans and more capable of taking care of themselves than she thought. In league with Robert, Phoebe manages to do what she’s been doing her whole life: overcome obstacles.



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