Chapter 9 Summary

Dolores bides her time at home, dreading the day when she must leave for Merton. One day, she is surprised to find an enthusiastic letter from her roommate-to-be, a girl named “Kittpy Strednicki.” Despite the letters, Dolores still does not want to go. She and her mother argue. Ma says she does not want Dolores to end up like her, but she was tired of fighting about it. Dolores, despite having “won” the argument, feels adrift.

At 3:15 that morning, Dolores is awakened by voices in the parlor. A police cruiser is outside. She hears bits of the conversation as she silently creeps down the stairs: "an out-of-state truck," "asleep at the wheel," "out of the booth." Ma has been killed in a freak accident at the tollbooth. Dolores faints and falls down the stairs, breaking the banister and badly injuring her forehead.

The days until her mother’s funeral are agony, endurable only through “nerve pills” from her grandmother and a visit from Mr. Tucci, who brings her a lush African violet. The two watch as Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to walk on the moon.

Dolores is overcome by guilt. She feels that she must carry some sort of curse. Her mother died. Rita’s baby died. She was the common denominator. For both deaths, she feels responsible. “I deserved this pain, was owed my misery,” she believes.

Her father shows up at the wake. She has no sympathy for him at all, and she does not want him there. “You killed us both, you bastard,” she thinks. She orders him out. He leaves.

The next day, Dolores decides that she will not attend the funeral. Grandma is horrified but Dolores will not change her mind. Alone in the house, Dolores looks at the pictures of her mother that line the stairwell. Dolores marvels at the fact that her mother, this young girl in the pictures,  has no idea of the horrors that await her in life.

The pain Dolores experiences emotionally is unbearable. Ironing her clothes for the funeral, she places her hand on the hot iron for as long as she can stand it. At that moment, physical pain is preferable to the emotional pain.

Cradling her burned hand, Dolores goes into her mother’s room for the first time since her death. She sits at her desk and decides then and there to give a gift to her mother: she will go to college. She writes a letter back to Kippy for the first time, feigning enthusiasm which she does not feel but forces for the sake of her dead mother.

The next morning, she walks to the mailbox, through a blizzard of taunts about her weight from a car of boys. As she drops in the letter, she quietly says, “I love you , Ma. This is for you. For you, Ma. I love you.”