Summary and Analysis Chapter 11
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 656
Sister Mary Martin de Porres: A clarinet playing, insomniac nun at the Sisters of the Sacred Heart convent.
Although Gordie and June had been fast friends when they were young, marriage had a negative effect on their relationship, causing them to fight excessively. But nevertheless, losing June was too much for Gordie, and he began to drink heavily after her death. One drunken evening, sitting alone and thinking of June, he calls out her name.
Superstition has it that calling a loved one who is dead brings them to you. This instantly enters Gordie’s mind, and he is terrified. He turns on the vacuum cleaner and the radio and the TV, but when he glances at the window, he sees June’s face. He believes she then breaks the window and climbs inside, and when he shorts out the electricity, he panics and flees, driving away wildly. He feels calmer away from the house, but blacks out once or twice as he drives and swerves all over the road. After a particularly wide turn, he hits a deer. Because Gordie can’t get the trunk open, he puts the motionless body in the back seat. He continues to drive, because tremors are beginning in his hands and body, and he needs more alcohol.
The deer, however, is only stunned. She comes to and looks at him with beautiful, big, melting eyes. Gordie panics and hits her with a tire iron. This time, she dies. But when he turns to check on her again, he sees June’s sprawled body, not the deer’s.
The third-person narrative switches to Sister Mary Martin de Porres’ point of view. The sister cannot sleep and has decided to practice her clarinet. As she plays, a sound startles her. A man is slumped against the window frame, and despite her terror, Sister Mary speaks to him. He wants to confess and will not let up even though she tells him that she is a nun, not a priest, and it therefore is not appropriate. She realizes how drunk he is and lets him talk. However, it quickly becomes clear to her that he is saying that he has killed his wife and that she is in the back seat of his car.
Sister Mary has to see it for herself. She asks the man to take her to the body. When she finds the deer, she bursts into tears. After weeping, she tries to explain to him that it was just a deer, but he flees. He runs into the woods howling, and even the tribal police cannot find or quiet him.
Gordie’s perception is unreliable. He is drunk and distraught the entire chapter. However, when it comes to ghosts, it is difficult to judge if even a sober observer could be reliable, and Gordie is the only witness. In the context of the narrative, it is difficult to know if being drunk opens Gordie’s eyes to the reality of ghosts or if the alcohol simply makes him more susceptible to delusion. Similarly, it is difficult to judge if calling to June made him more likely to imagine her or if his action made it more likely for her ghost to appear.
When the stunned deer wakes, she stares at Gordie with her huge, beautiful eyes that seem innocent and wise. Because Gordie knows that June is dead, and he thinks he has seen her ghost, it seems improbable that he thinks he has killed June. What seems more likely is that Gordie somehow believes he has killed June’s ghost. This also explains his confession and his inability to believe Sister Mary that the corpse in his backseat is a deer, not a human. He is inconsolable not because he is completely crazy and thinks he has killed June, but because he believes he has killed her spirit, which was in the deer.