Chapter 31 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 515

Chapter 31 leaves human trials and looks at the natural world, which humans are, of course, a part of but rarely do they see their own troubles as bearing any resemblance to those of other, "lower" mammals. 

This chapter is about a gopher. Fully grown and very able-bodied, the creature...

(The entire section contains 515 words.)

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Chapter 31 leaves human trials and looks at the natural world, which humans are, of course, a part of but rarely do they see their own troubles as bearing any resemblance to those of other, "lower" mammals. 

This chapter is about a gopher. Fully grown and very able-bodied, the creature has moved into a weedy area of the vacant lot, the same lot where Mr. and Mrs. Malloy live in the windowless, abandoned boiler. 

The mallow grass growing in the lot is green and thick. The ends of the grasses hold "little cheeses," which are delicious to gophers. The earth is ideal as well: rich and dark and composed of just enough clay to make it perfect for building sturdy tunnels that will not fall apart. 

The gopher eats very well. He is fat and clean. His paws are strong and his fur is soft, shiny, and altogether lovely. He is in "the prime of his life." 

In this ideal location, the gopher creates a perfect burrow. He constructs many easily accessible entrances and exits. From these portholes in the earth, the gopher is able to monitor all situations, both favorable and unfavorable. He is safely able to watch Mack and the boys move around. Once the main room of his new home is dug out, he burrows down even farther and is delighted once again, for here are huge rocks. He knows that he can dig under a rock to create a space for storing food, confident that the great rock will never allow the cave to collapse even in the worst and most steady of rains. The gopher makes the perfect home for himself and thinks about all the children that will one day inhabit this great burrow and how it might eventually extend in many directions. 

After a great deal of work, all of which, of course, he must do alone, the gopher finally finishes his little empire. He has created four exits from the main lodge and has dug out the area under the rock for food storage. Now he begins collecting mallow stems and stacks them neatly and carefully in storage.

He has found and created the most perfect gopher burrow in the world. Beyond the home's attributes, the area is ideal as well. Since no human has created gardens here, no traps will be put out for him. Cats are not a worry because they gorge all day on fish remains and are now too fat and lazy to bother with hunting.

But after a while, a problem presents itself. Even though he has created the perfect home, there is no female with which to share it. Day after day, he "squeaked provocatively" outside his own home and calls down into open holes elsewhere that may house a female. The only thing he gets for his efforts is beaten up by an old and crotchety bull gopher. 

The gopher waits and waits until he can wait no longer. No female ever comes and he is forced to abandon his perfect home and risk a life of traps and hungry cats.

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