Chapter 13 Summary

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In Chapter 13, another third-person chapter, Frank is surprised by how “bright” he finds the town of Lotus, Georgia. The sky is blue, the yards are full of flowers, and the trees are a brilliant green. The people seem happy, laughing and making music. Lotus seems more like a paradise than the hell Frank remembers.

Frank knows that the “safety and goodwill” he feels in Lotus do not accurately reflect the realities of life there, which he knows to be hard and full of poverty. However, he decides that it is okay to enjoy the comfortable feeling while it lasts. Soon, he knows, it will be time for planting. He resolves that he will sign up to work, devoting himself to hard labor and to the problems of ordinary life.

As the weeks pass, Frank thinks only of Cee. However, there is little he can actually do for her. The women of Lotus insist that he stay away from the sickbed. Their medicine, which is largely based on superstition, dictates that “maleness” could harm a woman in Cee’s condition.

Left to his own devices, Frank just thinks and works. He fixes up his parents’ old shack and spends the rest of his time in the fields. As he settles into this life, he resolves that if Cee dies, he will take revenge on the “arrogant, evil doctor [who] sliced her up.” But Cee does not die, and after a couple of months, Miss Ethel tells Frank that he can see her.

Cee is no longer the girl Frank remembers. She has spent her convalescence thinking about her choices and her life. When the women who were helping her heard that she willingly let a white man drug her, they rolled their eyes and told her she was stupid. They said she should never trust a man that way, and that she should never again allow herself to be treated like “trash.”

Lately, Cee has been watching the women around her. They are not like her grandmother. They do not think of themselves and their money all the time. Rather, they spend their time taking care of their homes, their families, each other, and anyone else who needs them.

At the end of Cee’s treatment, Miss Ethel lectures her not to allow herself to be treated badly anymore:

You free…You young and you a woman and there’s serious limitation in both, but you a person too. Don’t let Lenore or some trifling boyfriend and certainly no devil doctor decide who you are. That’s slavery.

Cee resolves to take control of her own life and to be her own person. She promises Miss Ethel that she will stay in Lotus instead of running away again.

After that, Cee moves into her old home with Frank. She takes charge of the house and garden while he works in the fields. She finds that Miss Ethel is right, and she is free. Her grandmother, Lenore, may have told Cee she was worthless, but Cee was the one who believed it. Now, she decides, she does not believe it anymore.

The only thing that still bothers Cee is the fact that, as a result of the doctor’s actions, she can never have children. One day she confesses this fact to Frank, who tries to comfort her. She shoos him away, saying that she wants to comfort herself instead.

Frank leaves and walks through town, thinking. It amazes him that his sister can be “gutted, infertile, but not beaten.” He resolves that he, too, will face the truth of his life.

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