Chapter 4 Summary

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Chapter 4 returns to the third person, but it tells Cee’s story instead of Frank’s. As the chapter begins, Cee is sitting in a cold bath in a small apartment in Atlanta, thinking back on her life. It has not been very good.

After Cee's family got kicked out of their home in Texas, they moved to Lotus, Georgia. For the years that followed, they lived in the home of Cee's step-grandmother, Lenore Money. During that period, Frank and Cee spent their days in the care of Lenore, who hated them—especially Cee. According to Lenore, a person born on the road during a time of strife was destined to grow up worthless.

Frank was the saving grace in Cee’s childhood. He loved and protected her when all the adults were either too busy or too bitter to care. But he protected her so well that she never leaned to take care of herself. 

After three years with Lenore, Cee's parents and uncle were able to rent a place of their own. They were still poor, but they now had a garden and chickens, which gave them something to share with the neighbors. All of the neighbors shared with each other except Lenore, who preferred to hoard what was hers. 

Now, as Cee splashes in the bath and reflects on her life, she wishes she had had more childhood experiences with people outside of her family and neighbors. If she had been allowed to meet more people or to go to school in the next town, she might have known enough not to fall for the first unfamiliar boy she met. But she knew nothing, and shortly after Frank went off to serve in the Korean War, she ran away with a boy named Prince.

Prince and Cee borrowed Lenore's car and left Lotus. As it turned out, this car was the whole reason Prince was interested in Cee. Eventually he stole it and abandoned her. Now Cee is alone in Atlanta, Georgia, and she is too scared to go back to Lotus and face Lenore’s wrath. Cee has a dishwashing job, but it will not cover her expenses, and her brother is not around to give her advice. What she needs is a second job, or a better job. Otherwise she cannot make it on her own.

When Cee hears about a job opening for an assistant to a doctor, she immediately decides to apply. She gets the job and thinks it is wonderful. She gets to spend her days writing notes about patients and admiring the way Dr. Scott treats the sick even if they are black and poor.

Cee thinks her new employer is a hero. She sees that he owns many books on eugenics, but she does not know that eugenics involves the manipulation of human breeding, sometimes by sterilizing people without their consent. Cee simply assumes that eugenics is something wonderful, and that her life is finally looking up.

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