Summary – Chapter Three and Chapter Four
David is sitting in the cafeteria when Laurie joins him. They both see Robert sit at a table where there are two girls from the history class. They move to another table when he puts his tray down and he pretends he has not noticed. David shakes his head and mumbles ‘“Gordon High’s very own Untouchable’”. Laurie says her mother knows Robert’s mother and was told they once had Robert tested and he has a normal IQ and is not really ‘“dumb”’. David replies ‘“just weird”’ and carries on eating.
Laurie is preoccupied with the film and asks David if it bothers him. He says yes, but also says ‘“as something horrible that happened once”’ and this was a long time ago. He also says it is history and it cannot be changed. She says ‘“but you can’t forget it”’ and finds she has no appetite.
Amy and Brian Ammon, ‘the quarterback’, head to their table. They all chat together. Amy says she thinks David is strange for wanting to take calculus twice and Brian nods towards Robert and says ‘“talk about strange”’. Robert is sitting alone and reading a Spider-Man comic book, and his lips move as he reads.
They move on to talk about the film and Amy agrees with Laurie that she feels awful too. Laurie turns to David and says she is not the only one who is bothered. He replies defensively and says he was but it is over now: ‘“Forget about it. It happened once and the world learned its lesson. It’ll never happen again.”’
Amy leaves with Laurie and David says to Brian that Laurie ‘“takes stuff like that too seriously”’. Laurie and Amy go to the publications office and they talk about David. Laurie notices there is a wistful tone to Amy’s voice and knows she is wishing that she was also dating a football player. Laurie wishes there was not a feeling of ‘constant competition’ between them, for grades, boys and popularity. She thinks this stops them from being closer.
Chapter Four switches back to Ben and to him thinking about the film. He is bothered by the answers he gave to the class when they posed questions. He wonders if the behavior of the German majority was as inexplicable as he claimed. He studies books from the library, but suspects ‘that he would not find the real answer written anywhere’. He wonders if it is something one can only understand by being there, ‘or, if possible, by re-creating a similar situation’. He considers making such an experiment because he thinks this will have more of an impact than a book explanation.
When Christy comes home, she sees how immersed he is in his work and recalls he is often like this with a new project. She sees the books he is reading, concerned with Hitler, the Third Reich and Hitler Youth and he explains he was asked a question he could not answer and does not thinks he has seen it written down either. He says he thinks it is an answer they will have to learn ‘“for themselves”’.
Analysis – Chapter Three and Chapter Four
When David makes his off-hand comment that it will never happen again, and tells Laurie not to think about it, the relevance of learning history is invoked. His ignorant claim to know that a fascist dictatorship will never happen again is both misinformed and barely thought through. His complacency is a summary of other voices who also say the same thing, and imply that the past is gone. This novel argues that the past is always with us and history is vital as we must learn from the past to ensure the same mistakes do not happen again.
Ben’s concern that he did not respond to the group more clearly is seen to have grounds when one bears in mind what David has said. By making the decision to encourage his student to learn ‘for themselves’, he comes to the conclusion that the dangers of fascism are so great that they must be learned more thoroughly than from a book.