Study Guide

A Northern Light Chapter 17

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Chapter 17


  • Later that week in spring, Mattie and Beth are on the pickle boat store, trading milk and butter for goods. Mattie wants to spend the rest of the money she earned from the fiddleheads on candy for the girls, but she knows it needs to be a sneaky, furtive (her word of the day) purchase.
  • Uncle Fifty left that morning, but Mattie already misses him; he helped a lot around the house.
  • On the pickle boat, Mattie sees Royal and his mother while Beth pays for the candy. Mattie, still watching Royal, catches his mother handing him a dollar and then Royal's ma glares at Mattie. Weird.
  • When Mattie and Beth arrive home, they find that Miss Wilcox is in the parlor with Pa talking about Mattie's test scores and her chance to go to college.
  • Mattie is in turmoil: She's angry with Miss Wilcox for stepping where she shouldn't, worried about Pa's reaction, and protective of Pa's uncertainty around educated people.
  • Naturally, Miss Wilcox thinks Mattie will be fine at college, but Pa doesn't want Mattie to go.
  • When Miss Wilcox leaves, Pa catches the girls listening in. Pa tells Mattie to "Go, then, Mattie. I won't stop you. But don't come back if you do" (17.furtive.52).

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