Why does Ethan want Jotham Powell to stay for dinner in chapter 6?

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Chapter Five of this short novel is the pivotal chapter in which Mattie and Ethan share their solitary dinner together and seem to pretend what life would be like if the two of them were the married couple instead of Zeena and Ethan. Mattie, in an attempt to make the evening special, uses Zeena prized pickle dish, and in the course of using it, breaks it. This whole scene symbolizes the broken fantasy of Ethan and Mattie, and the broken lives of all of these characters. In Chapter 6, it is the day after the incident of the the broken dish and the the day that Zeena is to return from a distant trip to a doctor. Ethan wants Jothan Powell to stay for dinner to serve as a "neutralizing presence at the supper table." Ethan wasn't able to get the glue to fix the dish and was surprised that Zeena was already home. He feels guilty about what happened the night before with Mattie is afraid that Zeena is going to see the truth of it all, that some subtle clue in his behavior is going to tip her off to it all. He doesn't want to have a big confrontation with Zeena and is hoping that if Jotham can stay for dinner that Zeena would be on a her best behavior and everything could just smooth over. Sadly for Ethan, Jotham is adamant in his NOT staying for dinner, even turning down two initiations. The narrator states that "to Ethan there was something vaguely ominous in this stolid rejection of free food and warmth, and he wondered what had happened on the drive to nerve Jotham to such stoicism." Ethan is dreading the tension that will inevitably arise when the three of them, Mattie, Zeena and himself, are left alone in the house this night. He is right to feel this way; Zeena is on to something being amiss and confronts them almost immediately about the broken dish and its implications.

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