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The House of Dies Drear

The House of Dies Drear


by Virginia Hamilton

The House of Dies Drear Chapter 10 Summary

  • When they get to the church, Thomas is happy to see that it looks like his old church.
  • He drifts into a memory of a camping trip he and his dad had recently taken.
  • Thomas calls it a "quiet, talking week" (10.2). He and his father had talked intensely for days.
  • A few bits of their conversation come to Thomas's mind now, in the church.
  • Here are the basics of his flashback:
  • They talk a lot about church – Mr. Small calls it the "African church," and the "Negro church" (10.3).
  • He tells Thomas that he can understand why many black churches remain segregated (meaning, they don't have white church members).
  • Without a segregated church, he argues to Thomas, there would never have been an Underground Railroad. Slaves on the run would never have had a safe place to be.
  • (This might be a bit confusing. Mr. Small seems to be saying that if freed black slaves had been permitted (or required) to attend the same church as white people, they would not have been free to congregate privately. Being able to congregate privately in church allowed for opportunity to organize and plan escapes. Running slaves could hide in the church more easily than anywhere else. This is discussed a little more in Chapter 17.)
  • Thomas argues that that doesn't have anything to do with the present. It isn't a reason for the church to be segregated now.
  • (We think this conversation is pretty interesting. During slavery, and before the Civil Rights Movement, segregation was imposed on black people and other minorities. But, in the case of the black church in late 1960s (the time Dies Drear was written) the segregation was self-imposed. We know that segregation imposed by one group to limit the rights of another group is wrong. It's less easy to judge a group that chooses to separate itself. This is what Virginia Hamilton, the author of Dies Drear, wants us to think about and question.)
  • Now back to Thomas's flashback of the conversation with his father.)
  • Mr. Small tells Thomas that he thinks that young people have a hard time with the style of the sermons, and he admits that the church is narrow (10.7) in its point of view.
  • But, he encourages Thomas to remember Sunday school…
  • And he does remember, he remembers laughing with the other kids, and the women who loved to teach the kids things, and the way they spoke of Jesus.
  • He remembers church picnics under the moon, hayrides, and lots of other great times.
  • Where did those good times go?, he wonders.
  • Mr. Small says that it's those things that make the church valuable to them, that make it their "treasure" (10.13).
  • He suggests that the church will only survive if people like them keep on attending.
  • (That's the end of the flashback.)
  • Thomas isn't sure how he feels about this.
  • But, he's happy to be in church here.
  • Thomas sees Mac Darrow at the piano bench, playing piano.
  • Like Thomas, he's wearing a dark suit, and looks neat and tidy, much different than he'd looked when Thomas met him yesterday.
  • Thomas can see that Mac recognizes him, and that for a moment Mac looks like something scares him.
  • Now Mac looks past Thomas, obviously caught up in playing. Thomas is like this when he carves wood, completely absorbed.
  • He thinks he could be friends with Mac.
  • As the Smalls walk in, the congregation turns to look at them.
  • Thomas is worried that the people his mom and dad's age would be hard on Mr. Small, wanting to know what he has to give the church.
  • He's knows that the women will be apprehensive about his mother because of her beauty.
  • Mr. Small sees some empty seats and heads toward them.
  • Some of the people they pass nod; others scrutinize them.
  • Thomas sees four men sitting in a pew together.
  • Something about them makes Thomas curious. He thinks they look like farmers, and wonders why they don't have on suit jackets.
  • They do not look at the Smalls.
  • As soon as they sit, Thomas asks his father if he saw the men ignoring them.
  • Mr. Small tells Thomas that "the boy at the piano […] must be of the same family as the four men" (10.43).
  • Thomas is amazed.
  • One of the men is the father, Mr. Small continues, and the boy at the piano and the other three are the sons.
  • Excited, Thomas tells his dad that the boy is Mac Darrow, the boy he saw with Pesty yesterday.
  • Mr. Small has been observing the atmosphere of the church.
  • He knows that the people here are not that receptive to outsiders, but he's surprised at how "cold" they are (10.47 ).
  • The minister and the choir come out, and Thomas approves.
  • Service doesn't start and Thomas wonders what the hold-up is.
  • All the sudden, here comes Pesty wearing a crazy pink and white dress, followed by Pluto in his black cap and top hat.
  • They sit in the first pew at the front of the church.
  • Pluto looks exhausted, ill, and weak.
  • Some of the church folks mumble angrily, but stop when the minister gives them the eye.
  • Hmm. Thomas observes that the people don't like them, but that the minister does.
  • Now the minister directs everyone to hymn 285.
  • Pesty is in the choir.
  • Thomas and his family know the hymn and don't need to look at the book.
  • Pesty's voice is beautiful, and works in harmony with Mac Darrow's piano playing.
  • Noticing that the preacher has a beautiful voice, too, Thomas decides that his mom will want to come to church every Sunday.
  • The minister begins preaching.
  • During the sermon, Pluto seems like he's having problem, like he's sick.
  • Thomas is starting to fall asleep…
  • He jolts awake when the preacher announces hymn 471.
  • During the hymn, Mr. Pluto gets down on his knees in the isle, shocking Thomas, and apparently the other church members, too.
  • One of the Darrow men rises and tries to make Pluto go back to the pew.
  • The minister yells at him to leave Pluto alone.
  • Darrow says that this is a Methodist church and that only Baptists kneel.
  • Angrily, the minister tells him that Pluto can worship however he wants.
  • As the minister continues with another sermon, Thomas starts to feel bad.
  • He can tell that nobody is going to come home with the family. All the excitement he had drops away.
  • The church folks leave and Thomas wonders why the preacher hadn't even welcomed his family from the pulpit.
  • At least he comes and shakes their hands.
  • The preacher introduces himself as Reverend Breckenridge and introduces them to some of the other churchgoers.
  • He tells them that he thinks the house of Dies Drear is very interesting, historically speaking, but he wouldn't want to live there.
  • Thomas wonders if Reverend Breckenridge is warning them.
  • Continuing, the reverend, says that there are more people here than there usually are. The Darrows, for example, haven't been there in a long time.
  • Except, of course, the youngest Darrow, named McDonald, who plays the piano each Sunday.
  • Mr. Small says he hasn't met the Darrows.
  • The reverend assure him that he will, that he'll get to know everybody.
  • He tells the family that the people here are kind and good, but they take a little time to get warmed up to new neighbors.
  • Out on the street Pluto and Pesty are getting back in their buggy.
  • He touches his hat to the Smalls, but Thomas turns his nose up. He thinks, "I'll not wave at the devil, nor the devil's disciple!" (10.117).
  • Thomas is really mad that nobody is coming home with them; he's completely disappointed.

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