Chapter 7 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on June 30, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1221

The man explores the bunker he has uncovered. It is made of concrete blocks with a concrete floor covered in kitchen tile. Inside are cots with mattresses and blankets. The man cannot believe what he sees. He encourages the boy to descend the stairs. As he waits for the boy, the man continues to look around. There are shelves filled with boxes of canned food. The man finds vegetables, fruits, and canned meat. Plastic bags are filled with blankets and warm clothing such as sweaters and socks.

The boy is hesitant. When he finally comes down, his mind can barely comprehend what they have found. It is as if they have uncovered items from another world, a world that no longer exists for them. The boy questions his father, asking him who might have created this place. The man explains that some people must have planned for a future disaster, but they never got the chance to use what they had built. The boy feels bad that they are enjoying what those people were not able to. He asks his father if the people died. His father assumes that they did. The boy wants to know if it is all right that they are eating someone else’s food. The father assures the boy that the people would have wanted them to, just as they would have wanted those people to use things they might have left behind had the circumstances been reversed. The boy asks if these people had been good. The father answers in the affirmative. He says they were good, just as the father and son are good.

After eating, the man discovers batteries and flashlights, lanterns, and a chemical toilet. They eat cans of fruit for dinner, being cautious not to overeat so they do not get sick. Their stomachs are not used to digesting since it has been so long since they have eaten anything. Then the man puts the boy to bed, covering him in blankets. He truly sees how filthy they both have become. The man finds soap and sponges, toothbrushes and toothpaste. In a side cabinet, he finds a heater and fuel. He also uncovers bullets, but no guns. The bullets, unfortunately, do not fit the man’s pistol. Then the man goes to sleep after eating a chocolate candy bar.

When the man awakens, he looks outside, slightly disoriented by where he finds himself. He sees a faint light in the sky, but when he positions himself correctly, it looks like the sun is rising in the west. Then he realizes that he and the boy have slept through the night plus the next day. The sun is actually setting. He sits and meditates about where they have been and where they are now. He remembers that he had been ready to die, but now they are going to live. And this new feeling of life makes him more cautious once again. If anyone came by, they would see the trap door to the bunker. The man and the boy could easily be found out. He would have to find some way to camouflage the doorway. In the meantime, he returns to the bunker and fixes a big breakfast. They eat ham and eggs and biscuits. The man fixes coffee and offers the boy a cupful. Before eating, the boy feels that they should give thanks to the people who created the bunker. He thanks them and tells them how sorry he is that they were not able to enjoy the bounty.

Later, the man and the boy carry the heater and some pans to the main house where they locate a bathroom tub. The man heats water, and he and the boy scrub themselves clean. The man also washes their clothes. They return to the bunker, where the man cuts the boy’s hair. The man shaves, noticing how strange his thin face looks.

After eating another meal and playing a game of checkers, the boy asks his father how long they can stay. The father reminds him that it is not really safe there. They could easily be discovered. They can stay only a couple days. The boy is scared again, asking his father if he thinks they will be found out. The father tries to take away the boy’s fears. He tells him that no one will come, but they still must move on.

During the night, the man returns to the main house and drags out some chairs and an old mattress. He covers the trap door with the mattress. He believes this will hide the door, at least for the time being. While the boy sleeps, the man carves out wooden bullets that fit his pistol. He rubs ash on the wood to make it look like metal. He fits the fake bullets into his gun, making it look like his gun is fully loaded, hoping to scare anyone who might intrude.

The next day, the man and the boy wander into a nearby town that is deserted. They find a grocery store and take one of the carts. The boy tells his father that they should take two carts. He could push one of them. His father insists that one will do. Besides, he needs his son to act as lookout, he says. They then enter a conversation about being on the lookout. The boy wants to know if his father is afraid someone will find them. They father says it is always smart to be cautious.

It rains quite heavily that night. The man lifts the door to look out. The mattress is heavy with water. But the man believes that the bunker is tightly sealed and will not flood even though the yard around the trap door is filled with puddles of rain. The next day it rains more. So the man decides that they can afford to stay an extra day. He suspects there will not be anyone on the road in a storm like this. They have stored the grocery cart in the barn. They spend the next day filling it with new supplies. The next morning they will leave.

The next day, the cart is so heavy and the earth so soggy that they have to stay on the road in order to travel. They continue moving south. The man suspects that they are about 200 miles from the coastline that he is trying to reach. He has no proof of this, but he estimates the distance. The man makes a reference to an old saying, “as the crow flies,” indicating that the 200 miles he has estimated is a straight line from where they are to the coast, not necessarily how far they will have to walk. The boy then launches into a series of questions, asking his father that if crows wanted to get away from earth, could they also fly to another planet. This represents the boy imagining an escape from the world that they are living in. The father tells the boy that the birds were not strong enough to fly that far away.

They stop at the side of the road for the night. Before falling asleep, the boy asks his father what his future goals are for them. The father answers that he does not know.

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