Study Guide

A Northern Light Chapter 5

By Jennifer Donnelly

Chapter 5

misnomer

  • In another flashback to the start of April, the mule named Pleasant is giving Mattie a hard time; not only won't he plow, he won't even move. Maybe it's time for a new name?
  • Pa has kept Mattie home from school again, and Mattie is pretty angry. She's still waiting for a letter from Barnard College that will come through Miss Wilcox, but Pa doesn't know that, and he wants to plant corn early so he can use some of it to build their dairy herd. Plowing was originally Lawton's job, but since he's gone, Mattie is stuck with it.
  • When Mattie picks up a rock to throw at Pleasant, she hears Royal Loomis, a handsome blonde boy, warn her not to. Mattie's got a pretty big crush on him.
  • The Loomises are neighbors to the Gokeys, and have cleared more land to farm than Mattie's has.
  • Royal takes Pleasant's reins and gets the mule moving while the kids cheer him on. He's the second-oldest boy in his family, and his older brother, Dan, just got engaged to Belinda Becker, which is big news because Dan's a pretty capable farmer and Belinda has a pretty good dowry (money a girl used to bring to a marriage).
  • Mattie remembers that Royal used to like a gal named Martha Miller, but he broke off the relationship.
  • Royal's not much for "book learning" (5.misnomer.17), but he does offer to plow the rest of the field if Mattie picks up the stones behind him.
  • When Royal asks why Mattie named the mule Pleasant, she tells him it's a misnomer, and blabs on about what she's reading and her love of words. Royal gives her a look, though, and she shuts up. Then she watches his butt and thinks it's a very nice butt, and then promptly becomes embarrassed. Classic teenage stuff.
  • Royal asks lots of questions about the farm and Pa, and Mattie tries to answer them as best she can; she says that she's still in school, even though she's sixteen, and Royal tells her that school is for children.
  • When Tommy Hubbard admits that his mom can't plow a field because his family doesn't own a plow, Royal makes a joke about how someone's always "plowing her field" (5.misnomer.43), implying that she has many sexual partners. Mattie defends Tommy, not understanding why the Loomis boys and the Hubbards never get along.
  • Pa arrives with cattle news. He thanks Royal for plowing and makes a disparaging remark about his own son, and when Royal also insults Lawton, Mattie's hackles rise with anger. She wonders what right Royal has to speak against her family.
  • Remembering when Lawton left in the winter, right after Christmas, Mattie recalls that he and Pa had a fight in the barn and Lawton had marched out of the house with his meager belongings; from that point on, Pa changed.
  • When Royal leaves, Pa gathers up his stuff and asks Pleasant "why Frank Loomis had four good sons and he didn't have one" (5.misnomer.57). Way to be a jerk, Pa.

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