Chapters 19–22 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on April 20, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1393

Chapter 19

A week later, Eldon was standing at the Dollar Holler when he heard someone call his name. It was Bunky, accompanied by Angie. Bunky offered him a job constructing ten acres of fence around his property. At his farm, Bunky showed Eldon where the fence needed to go and gave him all the materials he would need to complete the task. Eldon began working and had seven holes dug by lunchtime. He was about to walk back to the house for lunch when Angie showed up with sandwiches and soup. He and Angie began talking, and she explained that she was half Cree. Eldon listened more than he talked, and Angie assured him that he could talk freely to her. Eldon told her that he was there to work, not talk, and that he would work until she rang the bell for dinner. Bunky and Angie shared their evening meal with Eldon, and Bunky insisted that Angie tell them a story afterward. He had become fascinated by the way she seemed to spin tales “right outta the air.” At the conclusion of Angie’s story, Eldon was surprised to discover that he was crying.

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At lunchtime the next day, Angie again brought out sandwiches and began telling Eldon about her parents. Her father had died when she was only twelve, and her mother had then begun slipping away from her, leaving “one little bit ... at a time.” Her mother had gone through a series of doomed relationships; men always ended up leaving her. Her depression killed her when Angie was sixteen.

Angie decided she never wanted to be dependent on men the way her mother was, so she earned a reputation for being a quality worker. She told Eldon that men tend to favor women until women do something less than perfect, and then those same men disappear like a retreating wave. Bunky, she noted, was rather heroic, but he still had “sand and grit” in his character. Angie told Eldon that he could be heroic, but he insisted that he wasn’t “cut from that cloth.” Angie kissed him and walked away. That night, she came to Eldon in the barn, quietly touching his face. The two kissed again before she went back inside the house.

Chapter 20

Bunky finished his job and was around the farm more often. He and Angie now walked together to deliver Eldon’s lunch and make small talk. Eldon had gotten sober while working for Bunky, so dealing with the guilt of his feelings for Angie without the comfort of alcohol was a new experience. When Bunky wasn’t looking, he studied Angie, and when she told her stories, Eldon was utterly captivated. After sixteen days, Eldon’s work was complete, and Angie came out just as he was pulling the last strand of wire. She asked Eldon to tell her some of his own stories, insisting that it would make him lighter. He responded that he didn’t have stories worth telling, but Angie insisted that she wanted to know more about him. Holding his hand to her face, Angie kissed his palm. Eldon bent to kiss her, and the two then made love in the grass. Both cried.

At dinner that night, Bunky paid Eldon, who offered to clean up dinner rather than face his last moments with Angie. After meticulously cleaning the kitchen, he finally went outside to join Bunky and Angie. Bunky told Eldon that he was a “good man” and that it had been “nice” having him around. Eldon walked back to the barn, feeling a cry building within him. Back in the barn, Eldon heard footsteps; it was Angie, and they began having sex. Completely lost in the moment, they were startled when they heard Bunky suddenly ask, “What the hell?”

Chapter 21

The three adults sat in Bunky’s kitchen, and Bunky was visibly upset. Eldon offered a weak apology, and Angie took all the blame. Bunky was devastated, telling Angie that he truly loved and trusted her. She acknowledged the truth of his words. Bunky asked Eldon about his plans for the two of them, and Eldon said that they hadn’t talked about it. When he asked Eldon whether he loved Angie, Eldon replied that he did. Bunky then asked Angie the same question, devastated again when she affirmed that he loved Eldon as well. After sobbing into his arms at the table, Bunky told Angie that he had believed she would finally turn his place into a home and that he loved her even if she didn’t return those feelings. Turning to Eldon, he demanded that he keep away from alcohol so that he could take care of Angie. Angie told Bunky that she would work alongside Eldon to try to make enough money to survive together. Bunky told Eldon that he didn’t want Angie walking or taking a bus as they roamed around looking for work, so he gave the two of them his stake truck. He then asked them to leave immediately so that he wouldn’t have to watch them go the next day. As Bunky turned to go, Angie caught him in a hug; he sobbed again as he embraced her and then walked away. In the truck, Angie found a thick roll of cash that Bunky had left for them, which would be enough to start a decent life together.

Chapter 22

Angie found work as a camp cook; Eldon worked at a sawmill. They found a small cabin in dire need of repair, and Angie spent all her spare time trying to transform it into a home. They patched walls, planted flowers, and repaired the roof. During this time, Eldon never thought of drinking. That fall, Angie told him she was pregnant. As Eldon laid with his hand on her belly that night, he became terrified; he had never told her about Jimmy or his mother. “Bone deep ashamed” of himself, he turned again to alcohol. Angie told him that she needed him and that he couldn’t lose himself in alcohol, after which Eldon became more diligent in his efforts to hide his drinking from her.

One evening, he returned home so drunk that he fell face down into the mud when he climbed out of his truck. He then noticed that the door to the cabin was open but that it was dark. Clawing his way to their home, Eldon found Angie on the floor, clutching her belly. He drove her to the hospital during a rainstorm. Their baby was in full kneeling breech, and Angie labored with great exertion to deliver him. Finally, the doctors resorted to an emergency Caesarean section, but the surgery proved too much for Angie. When the doctor told Eldon that Angie had died, he also told Eldon that she would have lived if she had made it there in time. When Eldon insisted that he’d been at work, the doctor pointedly chastised him for his drunkenness, and Eldon headed for the door.

Analysis

Franklin has waited his entire life for this moment—the chance to really know something about his mother. In these stories, he learns that his mother loved Eldon and believed that he could be “heroic,” though Eldon never believed himself capable of filling such a role. She saw something in Eldon that made her fall deeply in love with him, wanting to know more about his own stories as she shared deeply personal stories of her own losses. Eldon, however, kept his most painful stories hidden from Angie, never affording her the same sense of intimacy that she provided for him. Instead of seeing her pregnancy as a gift, Eldon laid in bed thinking about how both he and the baby needed Angie, and this thought of sharing her terrified him. 

While Eldon initially felt the magic of the pregnancy, those feelings were ultimately overshadowed by his own fear. This fear drove him back to his vice, alcohol, and he abandoned Angie when she needed him most. His actions also erased the promise that he had made to Bunky when he swore to stay away from alcohol and devote himself to caring for Angie. Eldon thus tragically failed to be the hero that Angie believed he could be and indirectly caused the death of the person he loved.

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Chapters 23–26 Summary and Analysis

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