Summary, Chapter Ten (“in place of the truth”), pp. 186-204
Ruby and Ada continue to work hard on Black Cove Farm. They are concerned, however, because someone or something has been stealing from their corn crib. Ruby sets a steal animal trap to catch the thief; Ada persuades her to pad it with cloth in case the thief is a person, but Ruby does not pad it too much.
When Ruby sets off to trade with Esco, Ada works on erecting a scarecrow to ward off the farm’s other scavengers, a band of crows led by one crow with notches in its wings. Ada calls him “Notchwing,” and has watched his behavior with interest. She wryly tells herself that she is now living a life in which the doings of birds concerns her.
Ada at first chooses to dress the scarecrow in Monroe’s old clothes. But she decides she cannot look out every day at such a figure. Instead, Ada selects the gown the color of ashes of roses, the one she wore to the Charleston party.
Ada sketches the scarecrow in her journal, adding it to her collection of sketches of birds and bushes and other natural things. She has been noting such things as moon phases as well.
When Ruby returns, she has a letter from Inman for Ada. The letter puzzles her. Inman tells her of his wound and that he is coming back to her, and she presumes he means that he still cares for her. She cannot tell when the letter was written or whether it means Inman is just beginning his journey or will soon be home. He does say that she will find that he no longer resembles the man in the picture he gave her before he left.
Ada scrutinizes the picture of Inman that he gave her before he left for the war. It puts her in mind of the last time she saw him. When Inman came to tell her goodbye, the two of them were awkward with one another. Inman had bent to kiss her but instead knocked off her brooch into the river, ruining the moment. Inman tried to somehow convey his feelings through a story he told her about a Cherokee tribe that was promised a home in the land beyond the Shining Rocks if they fasted, but one of them did not, and so all of them lost the chance to enter the new land. Ada did not take his meaning and flippantly called his story “folkloric.” Discouraged, Inman told her she would not even remember him if he were killed, and Ada could not reply in the tender way she knew he wanted. When he turned to see if she was watching him walk away, he was clearly disappointed to find that she was not watching. She told him then that it served no purpose to watch him walk off.
That night, Ada tossed and turned, trying to work out her feelings for Inman. The next morning she maneuvered Monroe into taking her to town for shopping, but she actually went to Inman’s quarters. Ada told him that she could not let things stand badly between them. Inman was at first nonchalant, but when Ada touched him, he threw off his hat and kissed her. At the time, both of them thought the war would be only a matter of months; then Inman would return to her.
Analysis, chapter 10
Ada, like Inman in the previous chapter, engages in deep self-examination, culling the old Ada from the new, emerging Ada. By dressing the scarecrow in her fancy dress, a dress in which she looked particularly fine, she creates an effigy of the old Ada that stands “in place of the truth,” reminding her that she is not the empty, helpless woman she once was.
Similarly, Inman begs her, in his letter, to cast aside the picture he sent her because it no longer shows his true self. Looking at Inman’s likeness prompts Ada to examine her feelings for him. She goes back to their parting moments and sees that she was a woman bound up in her reserve, making sarcastic, glib remarks instead of speaking her true feelings towards Inman. At least she did not let her words remain “in place of the truth,” but spoke her true feelings before Inman left. She now realizes what truth the Cherokee myth stood for, as well. Like the people in the myth, Inman and Ada are facing the collapse of their world. The war has “turned out to be a longer experience than either had counted on.”