Chapter 24 Summary
At school one day, Mr. Benedict says that everyone’s special project will be due on Friday. He tells the kids that there will be no grades and that they should be totally honest about what they have learned from their work. At the end of this speech, he says he hopes everyone has accomplished “something of value.”
The night before the project is due, Margaret writes a letter to Mr. Benedict. In it, she explains that she has made “a year-long experiment in religion.” She says honestly that she set out to decide which religion she wanted to join, but she has not managed to make a choice. In fact, she is no longer sure she wants to be religious at all.
In her letter, Margaret describes everything she did for her project. She has read books about Judaism, Christianity, and Catholicism, and she attended services at church and temple. She even mentions briefly that she went to confession, but she admits that she left before speaking to the priest because she was unsure what to say.
At the end of the letter, Margaret admits that her religious experiments have been unpleasant, and that she does not feel she knows much more than she knew before the beginning of the year. It would be easier to know one’s religion from birth because a person has trouble making such a big decision for herself. She adds:
I don’t think a person can decide to be a certain religion just like that. It’s like having to choose your own name. You think about it a long time and then keep changing your mind.
On the day the projects are due, everybody except Margaret turns in a thick report with a fancy cover. She does not put her letter on the pile because she is afraid it will look like she has not done any work. Instead, she waits until everyone else leaves, and then she gives Mr. Benedict the letter. She waits while he reads it, feeling like crying but refusing to let herself do so in front of a teacher. When he is done reading, she apologizes for doing such a bad job. She flees to the girls’ bathroom and begins to sob. Mr. Benedict calls out to her through the door, but she does not answer.
Eventually Margaret sneaks away and walks home, feeling miserable. She wishes she could talk to God again, but she is too mad to admit that she misses him.