Set This House on Fire

by William Styron

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Chapter 9 Summary

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Mason asserts that art will be dead by the year 2000. He and Cass are driving toward Salerno as Mason expounds on his theory of the future of art. He then proceeds to discuss Francesca’s thievery. (Francesca did not work for the Kinsolvings for very long.) Mason digresses from the future of art to the Italians as a nation of thieves; Cass tries to get him to slow down on the sharp curves. Mason is increasingly erratic, according to Cass, even suggesting that he and Rosemarie join Cass and Poppy in an orgy, which Cass cannot imagine his wife doing. Cass tries to borrow money from Mason so he and Poppy can move back to Paris. He promises Mason he will pay him back once he finds a source of income in Paris.

Cass thinks of Francesca and her ill father, Michele. He had visited Michele in his hut and saw the deplorable state of it. It reminded him of Crawfoot’s shack, which he had helped Lonnie destroy. Michele is increasingly incapacitated by consumption. He asks Michele’s wife, Ghita, why Michele is not in a hospital. Ghita explains that the doctor said it would not do any good; besides, there is no money. Cass decides he must help this man. He convinces Francesca to steal food from Mason and give it to her father. Cass goes with Mason almost daily to the PX to buy supplies to replace what is missing. An American couple from Nebraska stays for a while at the hotel. The husband is a doctor, and this inspires Cass to take over Michele’s treatment because no real doctor is available to him. He reads medical books and learns what treatment is necessary. He tries to convince Mason to get him the medication he needs form the PX, but Mason holds out on him.

Cass fantasizes about having sex with Francesca. His drinking increases and he worries that his stomach will not last much longer from the effects of the alcohol. On a trip to the PX, Cass remains outside while Mason goes in. Cass tries to get past the guard without any identification but is unsuccessful until Mason comes out and explains that Cass is his “man” and tells Cass to come help him carry things. Cass feels that this is significant; he already feels that he has sold himself to Mason. He continues to drink, and he stays drunk most of the time. It is at this point that he meets Peter on the road to Sambuco.

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Chapter 8 Summary


Chapter 10 and Epilogue Summary