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Part 1, Chapter 16 Summary

Today, Wilder starts crying at 2:00 p.m. and does not quit. At 6:00, Wilder cries sitting on the kitchen floor as the rest of the family steps around him and hurriedly finishes their meal.

Babette watches the boy as she eats, knowing she has to teach her sitting, walking, and standing class in an hour and a half. She has tried every form of coercion and coaxing, and now she looks at her husband for some help. The old people will be waiting for her.

Wilder’s crying comes in short, steady bursts that grow stronger and weaker at times but never stop. The boy is exhausted and Gladney says they must stop by to see the doctor on the way to Babette’s class; she is not convinced a doctor will see a child just because he is crying.

Nothing about the situation has seemed too urgent, but now that they are going to see a doctor the Gladneys begin to worry and fret in their rush to go. Wilder’s parents review everything he has eaten or done in the last twenty-four hours in case the doctor asks and so their answers will be coordinated. (It is one of Gladney’s biggest fears that a doctor will lose interest in him and “take his dying for granted.”)

Gladney waits in the car while Babette takes Wilder into the doctor’s office. He prefers hospitals, particularly emergency rooms, because all of the ailments and injuries he sees there seem disconnected from his own eventual “nonviolent, small-town death.”

Babette and Wilder emerge from the medical building, and the boy is still crying. They are a “wretched and pathetic pair,” Babette looking defeated and Wilder determinedly crying. Gladney wonders if this is how professional mourners look.

The doctor’s only advice was to give Wilder an aspirin and put him to bed, which is exactly what Denise suggested earlier. Babette does not remember much of her conversation with the physicians and...

(The entire section is 501 words.)