Chapter 19 Summary

The next morning, Richard Gordon is on his way to Freddy’s bar to learn more about the bank robbery the day before. As he rides his bike, he passes a big woman wearing a man’s hat over her bleached blond hair. She is obviously crying. With contempt, Gordon thinks of her as a “big ox” and wonders what someone like that thinks about. He tries to imagine what she would be like in bed, or who she runs around with in town, and what her husband thinks about her now that she has gotten to such a large size. He thinks she is an appalling woman, built like a battleship.

When he reaches his home, he leaves his bicycle on the front porch. He opens the front door and notices how the termites have tunneled through it. He goes down the hallway as his wife calls out to him from the kitchen, wondering what he found out about the robbery. Gordon tells her not to talk to him. He is going to write while he still has the story in his head. She complacently tells him that she will leave him alone.

Gordon sits down at his table in the front room. He has been writing a novel about a strike in a textile factor, and what he has seen will fit in well with the plot line he has written so far. He intends to insert the big woman with the tear-reddened eyes in the chapter he is working on that day. In the book, her husband comes home and hates her. He hates her for the way in which she has grown coarse and heavy. He is repelled by her bleached her, her over-sized breasts, and her lack of sympathy for his work as a labor organizer. He mentally compares her to the young, firm-breasted, full-lipped Jewish girl who had spoken at the labor meeting that evening. Gordon realizes how good his writing is, how completely he has captured the inner life of the overgrown woman on the street. He can imagine her early indifference to her husband’s physical touch as a paradox to her desire for children and security. She has no sympathy for whatever goals her husband has set for himself. She has no interest in sex with her husband; she merely submits to an act she finds repugnant.

Unbeknownst to Gordon, the woman he had seen was Harry Morgan’s wife, Marie, on her way home from the sheriff’s office.