Summary and Analysis Chapter 4
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 708
Lucille Morrissey: June’s mother and Marie Kashpaw’s sister who died in the woods.
The Morrissey: A Lazarre who is also June’s father.
“The old one”: A Lazarre who brings June to Marie Kashpaw.
In 1948, June Morrissey is brought to Marie Kashpaw’s door, just as June’s son Lipsha would be brought later. Marie Kashpaw already has too many children, but the story of June surviving alone by eating pine sap touches her, so she takes in her sister’s child. The girl is gaunt and has a bead necklace given to her by the Cree Indians, who found her, in order to protect themselves from her. She never takes it off. Marie looks for signs of her dead sister, Lucille, in the girl, but June does not talk. She also does not fight with the other children or assert herself in any way; she just sits, simmering with emotions and silence. Marie Kashpaw, however, finds she likes June very much.
Soon thereafter, the formerly silent June directs the other children to hang her in the woods. Zelda runs up to the house and tells Marie Kashpaw, and she arrives at the scene just in time to prevent June’s death. She begins to whip Gordie and Aurelia, but June continues to talk, and she makes it clear that she had wanted to be hanged. June swears at Marie Kashpaw, and Marie washes her mouth out with soap. June’s stoic endurance of this punishment causes Marie to tell her that June’s mama was her sister and that June can be her girl and live with them. June says she doesn’t care, and returns to being quiet and closed.
However, with Eli the woodsman, June becomes slightly more relaxed. Although they barely speak with one another, she and Eli hunt and practice birdcalls. June begins to imitate Eli and speaks more often as he comes around. Nector, Marie’s husband and Eli’s twin, is often gone and usually drunk. As Eli comes by more and more, a sort of alternate family begins to form. Gossip circulates around the town, but it is actually Nector who is having an affair (he sleeps with Lulu once a week), not Marie.
One night, though, Eli stays after the children have all gone to bed. He moves toward Marie and whispers her name, but she does not respond, and he leaves. When Marie looks up, June is in front of her, sleepwalking. Marie holds her most of the night, until very late, when Nector comes home. He puts money all over the kitchen table, puts June to bed, and brings Marie to bed.
When Marie wakes, the money is gone and so is Nector. When June wakes, she announces she is going to live with Eli, and leaves. Marie finds June’s necklace hidden in her button jar and keeps it a secret. She doesn’t even remove it from its hiding place, and touches it only when no one is around.
Marie takes in many infants, but does not want to take in June because losing her would be too hard. She sees something special in June from the moment she first arrives; perhaps she likes June so much because Marie sees her own determination and ferocity mirrored in the younger girl. However, when June directs the other children to kill her, Marie sees another side to the girl, something she had not anticipated. June is not only fierce and determined but also has a streak of darkness. Marie knows that she cannot manage this girl, and so when Eli shows that he enjoys June’s company and June reciprocates, Marie knows she cannot keep June.
Eli and June share a wildness, a woods upbringing, as well as bouts of silence. With Eli, unlike her relationships with Marie or the other children, June feels no pressure to interact. She feels accepted without the need to evade or explain. Because June comes to Marie in the night and gives her the beads, it seems likely that June appreciates what Marie has done, although she never says anything. Marie’s acceptance of and reverence for the beads seems to illustrate that she understands.