Summary and Analysis
Landon experiences some anxiety about the upcoming dance. Although Jamie's religious code does allow her to dance, Landon fears that Jamie will wear her usual brown sweater and plaid skirt, which may prompt the other kids to tease her. Landon's friend Eric, who is dating a cheerleader named Margaret Hays, suggests double-dating, but Landon rejects this idea, aware of Eric's tendency to tease, especially when he has been drinking.
On the day of the dance, Landon fulfills his student council obligations by decorating the gym and then picks up a corsage for Jamie and drives to her house, where Reverend Sullivan is waiting to have a word with Landon. In an awkward conversation, Landon has to convince Reverend Sullivan that he means no ill will toward Jamie and does not plan to play any pranks on her.
Landon is relieved when he sees Jamie, who has put on a nice blouse and skirt and is not carrying her Bible, although she is still free of makeup and wears her hair in a bun. Landon observes Reverend Sullivan's fondness for his daughter as Landon and Jamie depart for the dance.
Jamie has few friends, and because of Jamie, Landon is largely shunned by his, so the two spend the first hour of the evening alone, talking and dancing. Trouble brews when Angela and Lew arrive: Angela has already been drinking; Lew spikes the punch bowl; and Landon finds himself staring at Angela in her flashy dress, which angers Lew. Jamie cheerfully intervenes, recognizing Lew from a photo she saw at the home of an elderly woman she once helped, and this saves Landon from a fistfight.
Later that evening, Jamie finds Angela retching on the bathroom floor, and Jamie and Landon clean up Angela, clean up the bathroom, and take Angela home. Landon is able to drop Jamie off just before her curfew and is amazed when she says she had a good time, despite being covered in Angela's vomit.
This chapter marks the beginning of Landon's maturation. As the chapter begins, Landon worries whether Jamie will embarrass him at the dance. What will she choose to wear? Can she afford a dress? How will she look? He selflessly claims that none of his concerns stem from the potential reflection on his own reputation but on what others might say and think of Jamie. Landon does, however, recognize that he is not proud of the anxiety he feels over taking Jamie to the dance.
Landon turns down his best friend's request to double date, ostensibly because Landon fears that Eric and Margaret will tease Jamie or in some other way make her uncomfortable. But what Landon is not yet acknowledging is that he is also separating himself from his friends to avoid the humiliation of dating someone who is so far outside his social circle. Nevertheless, he is aware enough of his friends' shortcoming to attempt to shield Jamie from their taunts, even if in doing so, he also shields himself.
The day of the dance, Reverend Sullivan sits down with Landon and questions his intentions, suggesting that Landon might plan to embarrass Jamie somehow. This line of questioning surprises Landon, who cannot imagine anyone being so cruel as to ask out a girl just to humiliate her. Here, readers see the immature Landon — the one with the reputation of playing a cruel trick on someone — fading, while a more mature Landon is stunned that anyone would view him this way. The two continue to talk until Jamie enters the room. She isn't beautiful or even stylish, but she is presentable, and she leaves her Bible at home. Landon is assured that no one will taunt either of them openly, and he feels relief.
The scene at Jamie's house is less about Jamie's appearance than it is about Landon's growth. He begins to understand how much appearance, fashion, and social acceptance mean to him. He also begins to understand that his reputation is not unlike that of his father and grandfather. And he begins to understand Reverend Sullivan's love for his daughter both in its depth and in its expressiveness, and neither element of love is something Landon has experienced with his own father.
Landon's character in this chapter is still young, self-centered, and immature, but he begins to have moments of self-awareness that are the catalyst for growth. One such example is that Landon is miserable for the first hour of the dance because Jamie is talking about God and few friends are around for relief from the conversation. In his misery, Landon can hardly wait to take Jamie home, yet while watching Jamie, he is also inspired by her excitement about the dance — the decorations, music, and dancing. "She was just so damn happy," Landon says, "it was hard to stay down for long." Landon is hardly a great date — anyone who is that miserable cannot be pleasant to be around — yet Jamie is enjoying herself. Jamie is happy, pleasant, and talkative, yet Landon is miserable. Landon begins to notice this irony.
Jamie shows her true colors — compassion, kindness, non-judgment — when Angela shows up drunk with her boyfriend, Lew. When recounting the event, Landon begins by saying that Lew and Angela's appearance is when "everything really went sour." Yet, at the end of the evening, Jamie tells Landon that she had a nice time. Landon is beginning to understand that maturity lies not in avoiding difficult situation but in how those difficult situations are handled. And Jamie, the supposed social outcast, handles this one deftly. She diffuses Lew's anger at Landon by mentioning Lew's grandmother, a reference that puzzles everyone with good reason. Not only did Jamie help a stranger (Lew's grandmother) bring in her groceries, Jamie also observed the woman's photos on her mantle closely enough to be able to recognize Lew at a later time! Then, later in the evening, Jamie finds Angela throwing up in the bathroom, and rather than allowing Angela to be expelled if her drunken state is observed by a teacher, Jamie takes "immediate charge of the situation." Note that Jamie doesn't pass judgment, lecture, or chastise; instead, she gets down on her hands and knees, cleans up the vomit, sneaks Angela out of the dance, delivers her home, swears to Landon that she'll keep this from her father, and tells Landon she had a nice time. Landon is flabbergasted. He is maturing, simply by watching the way in which Jamie lives her life.
cow working her cud "Cud" is partly digested food that cows bring back into their mouths after it passes through the stomach; they chew their cud to better digest their food, and the chewing motion tends to be an exaggerated version of how humans chew their food.