Study Guide

A Northern Light Chapter 7

By Jennifer Donnelly

Chapter 7

unman

  • Still in the flashback at the beginning of April, Mattie goes to the pickle boat, a floating library run by Mr. Eckler, and checks out House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. The boat is also a general store that serves the camps and hotels along the string of lakes called the Fulton Chain in upstate New York. It sells all sorts of goods: fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, cigars, and dry goods.
  • Mattie checks out the book, gets a bag of cornmeal, and is tempted by a fancy composition notebook, which she buys with the money she earned from picking fiddleheads, though she feels guilty about the purchase.
  • When Mr. Eckler says he wants to buy milk from her pa, Mattie has to explain that milk is short and it's been hard on the family without Lawton. Royal, who is also buying supplies, overhears.
  • Mr. Eckler encourages both Mattie and Royal to tell their fathers that he needs milk and would buy it from either farmer.
  • Upon departure, Royal offers Mattie a ride home, and on the way, when he sees Mr. Satterlee, the tax assessor, Royal comments that the Hubbards are worth nothing. Mattie straight up questions him why, but only gets a snort in return.
  • Suddenly Royal asks Mattie if she's still playing "that game" (7.unman.40), her word of the day. She tells him the word today is unman, which means to take away courage or strength; she's annoyed that Royal talks like a hick.
  • After Royal asks about the book she checked out, he says that words aren't very exciting at all, but Mattie strongly disagrees.
  • To prove her wrong, Royal spurs the horses to a gallop—but though he's full of excitement, Mattie is frightened half to death.
  • Laughing, Royal puts his hand on Mattie's heart and says that her "ticker's pounding fit to burst" (7.unman.65), and that a book most likely couldn't do that.
  • Mattie picks up her things from the buckboard's floor; the brand new book she checked out is now damaged.
  • She's so angry, but she's also attracted to Royal and wonders if a girl can be unmanned by a boy.

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