Study Guide

A Northern Light Chapter 9

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Chapter 9


  • Returning to the flashback in April, Mattie wonders what might happen in literature if characters could change their fates. She feels this way because even though a week has passed since the letter she received from Barnard College, she has no idea how to get there.
  • She's on her way to visit her friend Minnie, who is about a month away from giving birth and looks wan (the word of the day), a.k.a. sickly and in ill health.
  • Mattie arrives at Minnie's, ready to tell her about Barnard College; she's already told Weaver, who insists that she go.
  • But Minnie's in labor. Fortunately Mrs. Crego, the midwife, came by to check on Minnie, who has been having contractions for two days; now it's up to Mrs. Crego and Mattie to deliver the baby. Mattie's afraid, but Mrs. Crego says it's pretty similar to helping cows give birth.
  • The birth takes a long time, though Mattie and Mrs. Crego do everything they can to help the baby along. Eventually Mrs. Crego realizes that Minnie's having two babies, and one wants to come out feet first, so she reaches up to turn the baby to head first.
  • To put it mildly, Mattie now understands the truth about babies that she never read about it in books.
  • Once Mrs. Crego turns the baby, Minnie pushes and gives birth to a tiny baby boy, and then a baby girl; rejoicing ensues.
  • Mrs. Crego cuts the umbilical cords and sews Minnie up, then they clean her and make her some tea, and Mattie falls right asleep; when she awakes, she tells Minnie and Mrs. Crego that she will never marry. Mrs. Crego says that the memory of the pain fades, but Mattie assures her that she won't forget it.
  • Jim comes home, surprised by the two babies, and looks at his wife, full of emotion. Mattie turns away; it's a private moment between husband and wife, and her accomplishment of getting into Barnard seems paltry in comparison.
  • Mattie wonders if it's possible to have both books and family, because she doesn't know anyone who does.

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