Set This House on Fire

by William Styron

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Chapter 10 and Epilogue Summary

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After meeting Peter on the road, Cass returns home and sleeps for most of the day. He awakens only because he knows he needs to get the medicine from Mason and take it to Michele. As he goes up to Mason’s room, Francesca comes running out. Cass knows Mason has raped her. Francesca rushes to Cass, telling him that Mason caught her taking food. He took her up to his room and raped her. Later, he tried to again, but she kneed him in the groin. He beat her and she left, which is when Cass saw her.

Cass feels nothing but hate for Mason. He must go up and get the pills for Michele because he fears that any interruption of the medication would cause a setback. He sends Francesca away. He assures Peter that he never made love to Francesca, though both wanted to do so. The closest he came was to sketch her in the nude. When Cass goes to Mason for the pills, Mason refuses. This heartlessness, along with the rape, caused Cass to decide to kill Mason.

Cass woke up from a drunken stupor, knowing he had to get himself together to kill Mason. He goes downstairs and Windgasser tells him of Francesca’s rape and mutilation. Cass goes up to Mason’s room but does not find him. After searching, he finds Mason under his bed. He tries to drag him out, but Mason escapes. Cass chases him out to the seaside. Mason has a club, and Cass picks up a large stone. Mason beats Cass with the club but Cass knocks Mason down and beats his head with the rock. He takes Cass’s body and throws it over the side of the cliff.

Luigi questions Francesca, who is still barely alive. At first she accuses Cass, but then she changes her story and names Mason. Before she dies, Luigi is able to learn the truth. After Mason raped her, Francesca ran out to the outskirts of Sambuco, where she ran into a local youth named Saverio. She reacted when Saverio reached out to her, and Saverio responded, eventually beating her with a rock. Luigi knows that Cass most likely killed Mason; he had loved Francesca and was upset by Mason’s assault of her.

Cass spends most of his time drunk. He wanders around Sambuco, overhearing Americans at a nearby villa discussing the tragedy. He runs into a priest, from whom he learns that Michele has died. He rants against the injustice of God. Luigi quietly arrests Cass and takes him back to the police station. He tells Cass that he lied for him and that the case was declared to be a murder-suicide. Luigi releases Cass and tells him that he has the choice of turning himself in at Salerno or returning to America.

When Peter returns to New York, he receives a letter from Cass stating that Poppy is having another baby. He receives another letter from the nun in charge of the hospital where the man whom he struck was kept. He has recovered and been released, but he was readmitted after he fell down some stairs.

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Chapter 9 Summary