Study Guide

A Northern Light Chapter 38

By Jennifer Donnelly

Chapter 38

threnody

  • Back in June, after Mattie has returned to the hotel after her family's illness, she gets a package
  • from Miss Wilcox; in it are three books, one written by Miss Wilcox (a.k.a. Emily Baxter, notorious poet). The book by Miss Wilcox is called Threnody, which Mattie looks up in her dictionary; it means a song of sorrow. There's also a five dollar bill with a letter; in the letter, Miss Wilcox says she's leaving Eagle Bay, but she also gives Mattie her sister's address in New York City.
  • Mattie runs to the kitchen, looking for a way to get to Miss Wilcox's house, and when she realizes that there's no way, she starts to cry.
  • Weaver tells Mr. Sperry, the hotel owner, and Cook that he'll go with Mattie, and the two friends ride to see Miss Wilcox.
  • Upon arrival, Mattie tells Miss Wilcox she can't go, but Miss Wilcox says that her husband cut off her funds and made it so she couldn't teach anymore. In fact, her husband is on his way to commit her to a sanatorium, which he can do because he's a man with powerful connections. So Miss Wilcox is going to sell some jewelry and move to Paris. She hopes her husband will give her a divorce, but her trembling betrays real fear.
  • Mattie finally tells her teacher that she is going to marry Royal and not go to Barnard, and Miss Wilcox seems disappointed; the news takes the bravado right out of her sails.
  • As Weaver and Mattie drive back to the hotel, Mattie cries and finally tells Weaver that she's not going to New York, but instead she's getting married to Royal.
  • Weaver, predictably, reacts poorly, but Mattie doesn't know how to tell him that she doesn't want to give up both her books and the potential for love.
  • As Weaver yells at her, Mattie wishes she were as strong and fearless and he is, but she thinks she isn't.

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