Study Guide

A Northern Light Chapter 14

By Jennifer Donnelly

Chapter 14

monochromatic

  • Later in spring, Weaver is trying to teach Mattie algebra by writing equations in the dirt road; they both have a practice exam for their diplomas at the end of the week, and Mattie is nervous.
  • Weaver has Mattie read a word problem, but Mattie only can think of the story behind the word problem.
  • Frustrated, Weaver tries to find a solution. He uses Mattie's word of the day—monochromatic—and has her explain prefixes, suffixes, and roots. Then he draws the comparison between these parts and the pieces of algebra; Mattie understands it enough to do her lessons that night.
  • Disheartened by her prospects of college, Mattie tells Weaver that her aunt said no and that she hasn't even told her pa yet.
  • As they walk, they see the afternoon train arrive at the station, where Weaver's mamma is selling food. The two friends decide to try to get a ride with her when she's done.
  • Weaver's mamma greets her son and Mattie, and tells Mattie to take the engineer his supper; when Mattie gives it to him, he tosses her money and some candy. Mattie knows the money will go into a cigar box under Weaver's mom's bed, which holds Weaver's money for college.
  • When Mattie walks back to Weaver's mom, a man from the city snaps his fingers at Weaver and tells him to help him with the bags.
  • Although Mattie tells Weaver to leave it alone, Weaver picks up the man's suitcase and throws it on the ground, kicking it until it springs open.
  • The white men in the station rush to the chaos, and Mattie desperately asks Weaver to stop; finally he does, angry and grief stricken, and Mattie gathers the man's clothing and puts it back in the suitcase.
  • Of course the man wants the law to get involved, and Weaver's mom is about to offer money, but Royal steps in and says that the man should move along because Weaver's pa and five brothers are going to be along soon. It's a blatant lie, but it works.
  • After defusing the situation, Royal offers Mattie a ride home, but she says she needs to check in with Weaver, who is getting the lecture of a lifetime from his mother until he gets a word in edgewise… and Weaver's mamma breaks down sobbing.
  • Feeling like she should leave the two of them alone, Mattie takes Royal up on his offer and thanks him for getting Weaver out of trouble.
  • Mattie wonders aloud whether or not Weaver's father died because of an escalation of words into violence. She tries to tell Royal that words are powerful, but his two younger brothers make a joke that he smiles at, and the moment is lost.

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