Summary and Analysis Chapters 8 - 10
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1598
Lyman Lamartine: Henry Junior’s brother, one of Lulu’s boys.
Gerry Nanapush: Lulu’s son, a prison escapee for most of his (free) life, who is dating Dot Adare.
Dot Adare: A fierce, strong-willed pregnant woman who knits and fights with equal determination and who is dating Gerry.
Officer Lovchik: Town police officer who repeatedly arrests Gerry.
In 1973, Albertine runs away from home by taking a bus to the city. She holds all of her belongings on her lap, wrapped up in a sweater bundle. Since the bus fare took all of her money, she sits in the station until inspiration strikes as to what to do next. The sight of a handsome soldier, possibly an Indian man, inspires her to follow him. At first, she loses him, but the soldier turns out to be Henry Lamartine Junior, and he approaches her.
Albertine's bundle and furtive air remind him of the Vietnamese women he was surrounded by during the Vietnam War. Albertine invites him into a bar, and Henry Junior becomes quite drunk. Then they go to a hotel room, and Albertine hides in the bathroom, unsure what to do. Henry Junior talks to himself in the other room for a while before finally entering the bathroom. There, he confuses her with a Vietnamese woman he had had to interrogate. Albertine recognizes that he is confused, possibly crazy, but does not know where else to go. When she comes out of the bathroom and gets into the bed with him, he holds her down and has sex with her twice. She moves to the edge of the bed but does not leave.
During the night, Albertine touches Henry Junior. He is having a nightmare and reacts violently. She is terrified and crouches on the floor, and he comes to her, weeping.
Lyman narrates chapter nine, which is set in 1974. He has a gift for making money, and with some of his money, he and his brother, Henry Junior, buy a red Oldsmobile convertible. The car is at the center of this chapter’s story.
The brothers drive around the country together having adventures. Once, they even drive all the way to Alaska. This is an idyllic and happy time for both of them. When they return home after their travels, the government forces Henry Junior to make good on his enlistment. Henry Junior becomes a Marine, and Lyman is left in charge of the convertible. He thinks of it as Henry Junior’s car.
When Henry Junior returns, he is irritable and anxious. He watches TV and lashes out unpredictably. In a bid to involve Henry Junior in normal life again, Lyman beats up the red convertible, damaging it as much as he can. When Henry Junior finds it and expresses anger, Lyman dares him to fix it. Henry Junior spends much of the spring doing so, and then they take the convertible for a spin.
They drive down to the flooded river. The swollen waterway is a metaphor, to Lyman, of his brother’s strained state. Lyman grabs Henry Junior and screams at him to wake up, and Henry Junior becomes angry. Henry Junior tiredly confesses that he knew that Lyman had beat up the car, that he knew neither neglect nor heavy driving caused the damage. Henry Junior tries to give Lyman the car, but Lyman refuses it and hits Henry Junior, who fights back. While struggling, they both begin to laugh and then to drink. Henry Junior stands up and begins to dance a wild jig. Then he jumps into the river and is gone. It is unclear if he intends to commit suicide or is too drunk to remember the river is flooded. Lyman jumps in after him, but cannot find him. After giving up, Lyman sends the car into the river, too.
Chapter ten returns to Albertine as narrator. She is working on a construction site with Dot Adare, Gerry Nanapush’s girlfriend. Albertine explains that she sought out Gerry, the Chippewa who couldn’t be contained by white men. She found all three hundred pounds of him in a bar. Eventually Dot and Albertine end up working together in a truck shack weighing trucks.
While working in the close, enclosed space, Albertine becomes quite familiar with the quirks of Gerry and Dot’s life. Gerry is in jail and Albertine gets to know Dot. Dot continually mutters that he had better hurry up and get out of prison to be present for the birth of their child. She does not want to go through the birth alone. Albertine knew that Gerry was renowned for his ability to break out of prison, but she was unaware that he was continually captured and incarcerated because he had never finished serving his initial sentence. Gerry’s original offense was kicking a white cowboy in the crotch during a fight over whether or not a Chippewa was or was not a “nigger.” Gerry never completed his sentence from this event and, thus, was continually pursued by the law. Although he had not completed his sentence, Gerry felt that he had been reformed and paid his dues. He believed more jail time was unnecessary punishment, and he continued to break out of prison. Each time he did so, Dot tried to hide him, but he was always easily recaptured. Since Gerry believed he had paid his dues to society, he made very little effort to hide from or evade the law. Gerry does eventually return for Dot, and Albertine is left alone in the weigh shack. She misses the large, honest family and is quite happy when Gerry picks her up to be present for the birth of the baby. However, while at the hospital Officer Lovchik sees Gerry and again the man is on the run from the law. Shawn, the newborn child, Dot, and Albertine return to the weigh shack to wait for news of Gerry. For the first time, Gerry resists arrest and in the process shoots a white police officer. He is recaptured and put into a high security prison where he can't possibly escape or be touched by visitors. His incarceration leaves Dot and Shawn alone without a husband or father.
Chapters eight and nine revolve around other people’s interpretations of Henry Junior. Albertine is young and a runaway, but Henry Junior is so handsome and reassuring that she follows him. When he approaches her, she still is calm enough around him to invite him for a drink and to follow him to a hotel room. So although the reader knows that Henry Junior is in a bad state, Albertine cannot detect the slight craziness in Henry Junior, which is only revealed by his nightmares and the way he talks to himself when completely drunk.
However, to a family member, Henry Junior is noticeably changed. His unpredictable and strange behaviors scare Lyman, and so Lyman tries to put Henry Junior’s focus on something positive from the past. Lyman does not know about Henry Junior’s nightmares or his experiences, but he knows that Henry Junior has somehow been at least partially damaged. They had shared such positive memories about the car that Lyman thinks working on it can only have good effects on Henry Junior. And, in fact, it causes a spate of activity and focus unlike anything Henry Junior has experienced since he’s been home. For a while, Lyman thinks he has the old Henry Junior back.
However, Henry Junior’s leap into the river proves that Lyman’s understanding of Henry Junior was almost as limited as Albertine’s. Furthermore, the car reminds Lyman of the happy times they shared. By sending the car into the river with Henry Junior, Lyman can say goodbye to the idea of his brother that he loved most. In addition, the car in the river serves as a practical answer to questions that may surround Henry Junior’s death.
Although narrated by Albertine, chapter ten focuses on Dot and Gerry. Albertine witnesses and chronicles the love that these two people share, and she describes what keeps them apart.
Gerry is a symbol of the wild, uncontained man. He believes himself pursued and wrongly incarcerated. He does not believe that he is guilty and knows he can always make a daring escape. But it becomes clear that both the recapturing and his escapes are due to his indifference. Gerry does not believe he should have to hide, so he is always recaptured; but he believes he can always escape, so he does not mind being returned to prison.
However, as Dot’s pregnancy progresses, one very large reason to stay out of jail becomes evident. Gerry knows that Dot will always wait for him, will always be happy to see him, and does not judge him for being recaptured. She does not think he is guilty in a moral sense. But a child does not wait to grow, and Gerry does not know what a child would think of a father like him. And so Gerry finds that he has a serious reason to stay free. Once Gerry's indifference has disappeared, so does his ease with escape and recapture. If he does not want to be recaptured, he will fight, and his resistance is cause for a longer, harsher prison sentences in a sturdier, more secure prison. Gerry is trapped: he can only keep escaping so long as he has no reason to escape. In the meantime, poor Dot and Shawn are left to their lonely freedom.