Summary – Section Three, Chapters Forty Three, Forty Four, Forty Five and Forty Six
That summer, Jeannette and Brian had been swimming in the local pool but they were deterred after Ernie Goad and his friends told everyone they lived in garbage. A week later, Jeannette ran into Dinitia and Dinitia asked her to come swimming with her in the morning, which is when African-Americans used the pool. Jeannette asked her if anybody would mind and Dinitia said only her ‘own kind’ might, but they would not be there.
The next morning they went swimming together and it is described how Jeannette was accepted by the other women in the locker rooms. She stayed in the pool all morning and records that she never felt cleaner.
Chapter Forty Four is set in the afternoon after she had been swimming. She was alone in the house and answered the door to the Child Welfare man. She would not let him in and denied they were neglected as a report had said. She said her father worked and was developing ‘a technology to burn low-grade bituminous coal safely and efficiently, and also told him her mother was an artist. He left saying he would return to talk to them, but never did.
When he went, she was furious but also thought there was ‘no way’ she was going to lose her siblings. She wanted the family to leave Welch, yet recognized they were ‘stuck’.
Her mother returned home and she told her about the visit. She also said that since she refused to leave Dad the government would split the family up instead.
Instead of answering her back, her mother began painting. She painted a picture of a woman waist deep in water; she was drowning in a ‘stormy lake’. When she finished, Jeannette asked what she was going to do. Her mother finally snapped that she would get a job and threw her paintbrush into a jar.
Chapter Forty Five explains how there were a shortage of qualified teachers in the area and Mom found a job by the end of the week. In that time, they frantically tried to clean the house in case the Child Welfare man returned.
Her job was in a town called Davy, which was 12 miles away. She had to take a lift from another teacher called Lucy Jo Rose and Lucy Jo resented having to do this. She barely spoke to her and sprayed her seat with Lysol. Conversely, Mom thought of her as ‘woefully misinformed’. She once mentioned Jackson Pollock and Lucy Jo told her she was part Polish and did not appreciate listening to her derogatory names for Polish people.
Jeannette thought their money worries would be over now, but it still disappeared before the next pay day. She also still found herself searching in the garbage at school for food.
In Chapter Forty Six, Jeannette describes how that fall she started in seventh grade and this meant she now attended Welch High School. Dinitia went there too and they passed notes to each other in study hall, but they knew the negative attitudes of others about them being together.
Dinitia had changed by this time and Jeannette relates how her ‘spark’ had gone. She had also started drinking alcohol at school and just before Christmas she passed Jeannette a note saying she thought she might be pregnant. She did not come back to school after the holidays and after a month Jeannette went to her home. A man with yellow eyes answered and said she said she did not want to see her. Later, they all learned Dinitia had been arrested for stabbing her mother’s boyfriend to death.
The narrative shifts to Jeannette recounting how the other girls spoke endlessly about boyfriends and losing their virginity. No one paid her any attention, and Ernie Goad called her ‘pork chop ugly’. By this he meant she was so ugly she would have to tie a pork chop around her neck if she wanted a dog to play with her.
She describes herself at the time as nearly six feet tall, pale with bright red hair and prominent teeth. She decided to make her own braces after discovering the price of them and made a contraption out of rubber bands and a coat hanger and wore this while in bed.
Analysis – Section Three, Chapters Forty Three, Forty Four, Forty Five and Forty Six
These chapters refer to Jeannette maturing and to aspects of Welch society that highlight how poverty and racism lead to social exclusion and segregation. The reference to Jeannette swimming with Dinitia is a reminder of the dominating white influence in racist segregation, and also highlights the ridiculous ideology that lies behind such separatist thinking as Jeannette and Dinitia were momentarily allowed to be friends together in public.