Summary of Chapter IX
When the Captain gets up, his left arm and leg are not fully functional, and his speech is slurred. In the summer, Niel is leaving for Boston where he will study architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He goes to say good-by to the Forresters but now is ill at ease in their parlor. He is a young man, no longer a boy. Marian lightly speaks of them as an old couple, but Niel knows she is terrified of the coming winter. She is in command of herself, however, and now Niel knows that her lightness of spirit costs her something. The Captain gives Niel a toast before he goes: “Happy Days!” The Forresters stand on the porch and watch him go. His spirits sink as he goes over the bridge remembering the flowers he threw there.
Commentary on Chapter IX
Niel is now twenty and on his way to his own life. He leaves the Forresters behind, and yet there are unanswered questions in his mind that will haunt him about Marian Forrester. The main question is how she can prostitute herself with Frank: “What did she do with all her exquisiteness when she was with a man like Ellinger?” (pp. 105-06). The other question is how she is able to recover herself and give the impression of “tempered steel, a blade that could fence with anyone and never break?” (p. 106)
The narrator ends Part One with these questions, leading the reader to expect they will be answered in Part Two. While Niel is starting fresh, the Forresters seem to be all washed up.