Study Guide

American Pastoral

American Pastoral Summary

In the novel's first section, "Paradise Remembered," we first look at Seymour Irving Levov (the Swede), a high school sports hero to the predominantly Jewish Weequahic neighborhood in Newark New Jersey, during the years leading up to the end of World War II.

The as yet unnamed narrator remembers idolizing the Swede as a child, and hanging out with the Swede's younger brother, Jerry. The Swede's father Lou Levov runs a successful glove making business, and the family is wealthy. After high school the Swede joins the Marines, just as World War II is coming to a close. While in the marines he gets engaged to a non-Jewish girl, and his father breaks up the marriage. Later on the Swede marries Miss New Jersey, 1949, Dawn Dwyer.

In 1985 the narrator, who we learn is the novelist Nathan Zuckerman, runs into the Swede. Ten years later he gets a letter from the Swede (who is about seventy) inviting him to dinner. He goes to the dinner, but feels he's never been able to penetrate beneath the Swede's still perfect surface. The Swede shows him lots of pictures of his three teenage sons and fairly young second wife, who is the boys' mother.

A few months later, at Zuckerman's forty-fifth high school reunion he meets Jerry and learns that the Swede died a few days earlier. He also learns that the Swede had a daughter who bombed a post office in the small town of Rimrock, New Jersey. She too has died. From the few clues Zuckerman has, he sets out to imagine what the Swede's life might have been like with his daughter, before and after the bombing. He turns his imaginings into a novel.

The first thing he imagines is an uncomfortable scene where the Swede kisses his daughter, Merry, when she is eleven. He then conjures up a series of conversations between the Swede and Merry, concerning her growing interest in taking action against the Vietnam War. The section ends with a recap of the post-office bombing.

In the novel's second section, "The Fall," Zuckerman seems to drop out of the story (as we discuss in "Narrator Point of View"). The remainder of the novel seems to be told in the third person, from the Swede's perspective (though we can't help but keep Zuckerman in our minds). The section begins four months after the bombing. A young woman named Rita Cohen comes to see the Swede at Newark Maid. After pretending to be a student researching the leather industry, she tells the Swede she's come on Merry's behalf. In the hopes of finding his daughter, the Swede gives Rita some of Merry's most personal items.

The Swede gives Rita ten thousand dollars for Merry, but doesn't get to see her. Rita seems to have disappeared too. The Swede spends the next five years desperately waiting for another word about his daughter and trying to figure out what happened to make things turn out so ugly. During those five years he watches the news constantly looking for signs that Merry is still alive. At the end of the five years, just after his wife Dawn has started to recover from the trauma of Merry's disappearance and is enjoying her new face lift, he gets a letter from Rita Cohen telling him where Merry is.

He finds Merry and learns that she really was the bomber, that she has killed three more people, that she has been raped twice, and that she considers herself a Jain and has taken a vow of non-violence. The Swede also learns that Merry's speech therapist hid her for the first few days after the bombing. The section ends with a brutal conversation between the Swede and his brother Jerry, where Jerry blames the Swede for what's become of Merry.

The novel's final section ("Paradise Lost") begins with the Swede imagining his earlier life with Merry and Dawn in Rimrock. The Swede returns home after his visit with Merry, and the rest of the novel centers around a dinner party happening at the Swede's house that night. First he visits with his parents, in from Florida. They discuss Merry with some anxiety.

Bill and Jessie Orcutt are the first to arrive, and we learn some of Orcutt's family history. Barry and Marcia Umanoff and Shelly and Sheila Salzman are also in attendance. The conversation turns to Watergate, and then to the film Deep Throat, reminding us that we are in the 1970s. When the Swede goes to the kitchen to find Orcutt and tell him his wife Jessie is having problems, he sees Dawn and Bill Orcutt having sex in the kitchen.

Soon after, the Swede gets a call from Rita Cohen, accusing him of trying to take Merry away from her. We learns about the Swede's brief affair with Sheila, Merry's speech therapist, and see the Swede confront her about hiding Merry in her apartment just after the Rimrock bombing—a fact he's just learned from Merry.

Throughout the section, the Swede tries to decide whether to go back and get Merry out of the awful room, to run away with Sheila, or to run away with Merry. The novel ends with the Swede's father getting "stabbed" (9.352) in the face with a fork when he's trying to force a very drunk Jessie Orcutt to eat pie. The fork barely misses Lou's eye. We aren't given details of the extent of his physical injuries, though it's implied they are minor. We certainly hope so, since Marcia Umanoff is laughing at him. The novel's last lines are as follows:

They'll never recover. Everyone is against [the Levovs], everyone and everything that does not like their life. All the voices from without, condemning and rejecting their life!

And what is wrong with their life? What on earth is less reprehensible than the life of the Levovs? (9. 355, 356)

(Head over to "What's Up With the Ending" for some discussion of the final moment.)

  • Part 1, Chapter 1

    • Part 1 is called "Paradise Remembered."
    • The novel begins with the following sentence: "The Swede." (1.1)
    • The narrator (unnamed at this point) explains that the Swede is the name of an amazing "high school athlete" (1.1) when the narrator was a kid.
    • Then we get a flashback:
    • The Swede is amazing in part because of his looks.
    • The narrator says that "the few fair complexioned Jews in our predominantly Jewish public high school" (1.1) don't look anything like the Swede.
    • The Swede is Jewish, too, but he doesn't look Jewish. He has blue eyes, blond hair. He looks like a Viking.
    • (Viking: "any of the Scandinavian people who raided the coasts of Europe from the 8th to the 11th centuries." Swedish people are Scandinavian, hence the nickname.)
    • The Swede has starring roles in high school football, basketball, and baseball.
    • As long as the Swede is on the team, everybody is happy, win or lose.
    • The parents of the Jewish kids in the neighborhood, many of them without education, work really hard to support families and value education (grades) over sports.
    • Because of the Swede, the neighborhood is able to "enter into a fantasy about itself" (1.2), a fantasy that sports can help them forget about "real life" and focus on, well, sports.
    • The neighborhood uses sports as a way to "forget the war" (1. 2).
    • Somehow the Swede gives them hope that their relatives fighting in the war against Germany and Japan (World War II) will come home alive.
    • The neighborhood worships him like a god.
    • The narrator wonders what this must have been like for the Swede.
    • At the games, The Swede even has his own cheer:
    • "Swede Levov! It rhymes with… "The Love!"...[…]" (1.4).
    • No grownups are ever rude to him. They show him respect and call him "Swede." Some of the mothers call him "Seymour" (his real name).
    • Sometimes girls call him "Levov of my life!" (1.5).
    • In those days, the narrator is friends with the Swede's brother, Jerry Levov.
    • Jerry is kind of the opposite of the Swede—skinny, dark, and brainy.
    • He doesn't really have any friends other than the narrator.
    • Jerry would invite the narrator over to play ping pong in the basement of the Levov house.
    • Jerry plays ping pong super aggressively.
    • The narrator normally wouldn't put his life in danger like that, but he likes telling people he hangs around the Swede's house.
    • The narrator used to think it would be awesome to be the Swede's brother, but now he thinks it must have been awful.
    • In the Swede's room, the narrator sees a set of books by John R. Tunis about baseball.
    • This is when the narrator is ten. He reads those books and loves them. He imagines the Swede as the young hero, Kid.
    • He says those books are about "a sweet star unjustly punished" (1.11), and in his mind the Swede and the hero of the books are the same person.
    • The Levovs live on Keer Avenue, where other wealthy Jewish people in the neighborhood live.
    • The narrator's father is a chiropodist (foot doctor) and makes enough for the narrator's family to get by on.
    • But the Levovs are rich; the Swede's father, Lou Levov, has an extremely successful business manufacturing ladies' gloves.
    • (Now we go deeper back in the past, and then forward again)
    • Lou's father (the Swede's grandfather) comes to Newark, New Jersey (where much of the novel is set) in the 1890s. He works in awful conditions in the leather industry, tanning leather and making leather goods.
    • Lou starts working in tanning when he's fourteen and spends lots of time among the grease and "hunks of skin all over the floor" (1.14)—the brutal environment of the tannery.
    • Lou and his brothers eventually open their own business, but it goes bankrupt. Alone, Lou starts Newark Maid Leatherwear soon after.
    • He doesn't really start making any money until 1942 when the Women's Army Corps orders dress gloves from him.
    • Then he gets a huge account, the Bamberger account.
    • Bamberger's admiration of the teenage athletic star, the Swede, plays a big role in Lou getting the account.
    • By the end of World War II (1945) the business begins to prosper and is stable.
    • In 1958 they open a factory in Puerto Rico, and the Swede becomes president of his father's company.
    • He now lives in Rimrock New, Jersey, "a wealthy, rural" (1.16) small town on a big farm. He commutes to Newark every day to work at Newark Maid.
    • (Now, we're moving back to the past again.)
    • In June of 1945 the Swede graduates high school and joins the Marine Corp.
    • The narrator hears rumors that his parents are trying to get him to join the navy instead, fearing "notorious Marine Corp anti-Semitism." (1.17)
    • But, the Swede wants to be among "the toughest of the tough." (1.17)
    • He is still in basic training in Parris Island, South Carolina when the US bombs Hiroshima and the war soon comes to an end.
    • So, the Swede spends his time as a Marine on Parris Island as a drill instructor.
    • He gets engaged to "an Irish Catholic girl" (1.17).
    • Lou Levov comes down to Parris Island and doesn't leave until the couple is broken up.
    • The Swede comes home in 1947, when he's twenty, and enrolls in Upsala College.
    • At this point in time, the narrator is in high school. He and his friends would go to watch the Swede play baseball at the home games.
    • When the narrator is in college he hears that the Swede has joined Newark Maid.
    • He later hears that the Swede is married to a Miss New Jersey who competed in the 1949 Miss America Contest.
    • "A shiksa," the narrator thinks. "Dawn Dwyer. He'd done it." (1.18)
    • ("Shiksa" is a term that shows up often in Roth novels. Shiksas are any non-Jewish women. The term can be used derogatorily or for humorous effect. Jewish parents like Lou Levov don't want their sons marrying shiksas.)
    • (Now the novel skips forward)
    • In 1985 the narrator is in New York with friends to watch a baseball game, the New York Mets vs. the Houston Astros.
    • Suddenly, the narrator sees the Swede, who is thirty-six years older than when Zuckerman last saw him.
    • He's looking good and is wearing an incredibly nice suit. He has a child with him, obviously a son.
    • The narrator goes up to the Swede and tells him he used to be friends with the Swede's brother in the neighborhood.
    • The Swede says to the narrator, "You're Zuckerman? […] The author?" (1.20)
    • Zuckerman says that he is indeed Zuckerman the author.
    • They make a little small talk. The Swede introduces Zuckerman and his son, Chris; Zuckerman introduces the Swede and his friends.
    • When the Swede leaves, he calls Zuckerman "Skip."
    • His friends tease him about it. This was Zuckerman's nickname when he was a kid because he skipped some grades.
    • After the Swede leaves, one of Zuckerman's friends tells him, "You should have seen your face—you might well have told us he was Zeus. I saw just what you looked like as a boy" (1.35).
    • Ten years later (1995), Zuckerman gets a letter from the Swede.
    • In the letter, the Swede says he wants to take Zuckerman to dinner in New York City and talk to him.
    • He says that his father (Lou) died the year before, at ninety-six.
    • The Swede has been "trying to write a tribute" (1.37) to Lou to share with friends and family, and he wants Zuckerman's advice.
    • He ends the letter by saying, "Not everyone knew how much he suffered because of the shocks that befell his loved ones" (1.39).
    • He says he'll understand if Zuckerman doesn't have time to meet him.
    • Zuckerman tells us that he wouldn't normally agree to meet someone to talk about a tribute for their father.
    • But he has "compelling reasons for […] getting a note off to the Swede — within the hour" (1.42), agreeing to meet him.
    • First, the Swede was his idol, and he is flooded with memories of him.
    • Zuckerman wonders "where was the Jew" (1.45) in the Swede? He thinks, "You couldn't find it yet you knew it was there" (1.45).
    • The Swede just looks and acts so perfectly "all-American."
    • He wonders, "what did [the Swede] do for subjectivity? What was the Swede's subjectivity?" (1.45)
    • (In other words, is the Swede something besides his perfect good looks, his complete success, and his star quality? A person's "subjectivity" is their introspection, their self-analysis, their beliefs and desires: what is "under their skin.")
    • Because Zuckerman idolized the Swede, he can't imagine anything that is under his perfect surface.
    • Zuckerman tells us that "the second reason [he answers] the Swede's letter" (1.46) is because he's curious about the Swede's "substratum," (1.42) what's underneath his visible surface.
    • He wants to know about the Swede's inner life, and if there were things that challenged and disrupted all that perfection.
    • Zuckerman knows that "no one gets through unmarked by brooding, grief, confusion, and loss" (1.47).
    • But Zuckerman just can't imagine it in the case of the Swede.
    • Zuckerman ponders the line in the letter where the Swede talks about shocks.
    • He thinks that, "The Swede has suffered a shock" (1.47) and that this shock is what he really wants to talk about.
    • But, Zuckerman tells us, "I was wrong" (1.49).
    • He and the Swede meet at the Italian restaurant, Vincent's, where the Swede is a regular, and Zuckerman can see instantly that he isn't going to get anywhere near the substratum.
    • Rather, the Swede seems to be showing Zuckerman that nothing has changed; the Swede is just as adored and worshiped as before.
    • The Swede doesn't have to order. His running order for the past thirty years is baked ziti and clams posillipo.
    • Zuckerman orders chicken cacciatore.
    • Now Zuckerman is bored.
    • The Swede comes out with (groan) the photos of his children, Chris, 18, Steve, 16, and Kent, 14.
    • Their mother is a blond woman who looks about forty.
    • As the meal "wore on" (1. 55), Zuckerman sees more and more surface Swede. Still no sign of what could be underneath.
    • The Swede, he thinks, is "incognito" (1.55), a person with a hidden identity.
    • Soon, Zuckerman wonders if the Swede might actually be insane, if something has "warned him" (1.56) against ever "run[ing] counter to anything" (1.56).
    • The Swede is almost seventy, six or seven years older than Zuckerman, and still a perfectly beautiful specimen. Still, he looks hollow around the cheeks.
    • When they are almost finished eating Zuckerman finds out it's because the Swede had prostate surgery less than a year ago, and has lost weight as a result.
    • At some time during the conversation, Zuckerman asks the Swede about business.
    • Apparently, Newark Maid had left Newark in the 1970s.
    • After the 1967 riots the Swede had kept the factory open for another six or so years and then moved it out of town.
    • Now, we get a long paragraph of the Swede telling Zuckerman how dangerous Newark is these days.
    • He says it's "the worst city in the world" (1.60).
    • Kids stealing cars, and people being murdered.
    • The Swede's own car was stolen at gunpoint by a twelve-year-old kid just before he closed the Newark factory for good.
    • As of now, Newark Maid is in Puerto Rico.
    • He used to partner with a Czechoslovakian glove manufacturer, but now it's just the Puerto Rican plant.
    • (What used to be Czechoslovakia is now two states, Czech Republic and Slovakia. In 1973, Czechoslovakia was under Communist rule.)
    • When Zuckerman asks, the Swede provides details of the glove making process and of the glove itself.
    • Soon, the Swede brings the conversation back around to the kids and Zuckerman is totally bored, wishing he could get the Swede to talk about gloves again.
    • Before desert, the Swede and Zuckerman talk prostate cancer.
    • Apparently, Zuckerman has friends who had the surgery.
    • One of them, he tells the Swede is now "impotent and incontinent" (1.64) (he can't have sex or hold his urine).
    • Zuckerman tells us that the person he's talking about is actually himself.
    • The Swede still hasn't brought up his father, which is what the dinner was supposed to be about.
    • He thinks the Swede is completely mysterious, like a code that can't be cracked.
    • Zuckerman imagines that the Swede asked him here because, "He wants something recorded" (1.74).
    • He wonders what it could be.
    • Then he thinks that maybe the Swede is just a happy guy—such people do exist.
    • For some reason, Zuckerman asks the Swede if his brother, Jerry, is gay.
    • The Swede finds this amusing.
    • Zuckerman remembers that when he and Jerry were kids, Jerry made a hamster skin coat for a girl as a Valentine's Day present.
    • (So here's another flashback.)
    • He gets the skins from biology students at school and sets about skinning them and drying them in the sun.
    • He lines it with cloth cut from a parachute the Swede had brought home from his Marine Corps days.
    • The coat is too stiff and Jerry can't get it into the fancy department store box, so he and Zuckerman have too tear it apart and re-stitch it so it folds.
    • The girl freaks out when she opens the box.
    • His father gets mad at him for not properly curing the skins and for cutting up the Swede's parachute.
    • Jerry knows the coat smells awful, so he pours his mother's expensive perfume all over it.
    • By the time it gets to the girl's house, it smells really, really awful.
    • She thinks Jerry hunted the hamsters himself and made the coat as some kind of cruel joke.
    • (Flashback over)
    • The Swede tells Zuckerman that Jerry is a heart surgeon now and has been married four times.
    • He asks the Swede how many times he's been married. He thinks the Swede's wife in the picture looks too young to be a first wife, but he can't imagine the Swede getting a divorce.
    • The Swede says, "Two wives, that's my limit" (1. 96).
    • Jerry, he says, keeps marrying the nurses in his office and has six kids.
    • Lou Levov didn't like it, but he loved his grandchildren and each of Jerry's wives.
    • Apparently, Jerry is a very abrasive figure who gets what he wants by yelling.
    • The conversation never does get around to the "shocks" the Swede promised in his letter. Zuckerman wonders why he wants to see inside the Swede so badly.
    • He leaves the dinner with the feeling that the Swede is "the embodiment of nothing."
    • He tells us, "I was wrong. I was never more mistaken about anyone in my life" (1.100).
  • Part 1, Chapter 2

     (Note to the reader: We admit it. This next section is hard to summarize without telling you what it is. So we're telling you. It's the speech that Zuckerman doesn't "give at [his] forty-fifth high school reunion, a speech to [him]self masked as a speech to them" (2. 10).

    • Now, you get to hear what the speech is about:
    • We summarize the speech in the present tense, but remember that Zuckerman is (hypothetically) asking his classmates to remember back to the time just after World War II, the time when they were in and graduating high school.)
    • This chapter begins with the sentence "Let's remember the energy" (2.1).
    • America is in charge of a big chunk of the world.
    • Americans are prospering and money is getting looser.
    • Prices are getting more competitive.
    • Workers are demanding higher wages.
    • In Zuckerman's neighborhood, "the boys who came back alive" (2.1) are hanging out and playing basketball with the neighborhood kids.
    • World War II comes to an end six months after Zuckerman and his class start high school.
    • America is intoxicated with itself.
    • Americans can "start over again, en masse, everyone in it together" (2.1).
    • Even though the people are still nervous, and some still suffering from poverty, the whole neighborhood is "bright with industriousness" (2.3)—everybody is working hard at working hard.
    • Sometimes the fever to have goals and work toward them is out of fear and desperation.
    • (This is a Jewish neighborhood, and in 1945-1950 the news was still coming out about the Holocaust. Zuckerman is suggesting that the Jewish people in his neighborhood were working so hard to try to forget about the atrocities in Europe, as well as Anti-Semitism in the good ol' USA.)
    • The neighborhood is "cohesive."
    • The neighborhood kids get lots of advice on succeeding and on not making mistakes.
    • But the kids are trying to decide how far to stray from the rules and fears of the older generations.
    • They are torn between what they want and what they are supposed to do and want.
    • Their, um, urges, are repressed.
    • They really, really don't want to disappoint their elders.
    • Sometimes, the pressure drives a kid crazy, or even to commit suicide […], "but mostly the friction between generations was just sufficient" to make the kids want "to move forward" (2.5).
    • Zuckerman is asking his classmates if he's remembering correctly, and it was a joy to live there, in that neighborhood.
    • He certainly loves it.
    • Could they ever more completely belong to a place than they do as children growing up in it?
    • They all know every detail of the insides and outsides of each others' homes.
    • They all know all the gossip about each others' parents.
    • Still they were lonely in their, um, urges.
    • Zuckerman tells his classmates that "It's astonishing that" they can remember it all so clearly, even though they are close to the age their grandparents were back then when they started high school in February of 1946.
    • Now, the class of 1950 knows everything. All the secrets of its lives. The "future" (2.9) that was a mystery in high school has been "revealed" (2.9).
    • (End speech.)
    • This (as we cheatingly told you before) is the speech that Zuckerman doesn't "give at [his] forty-fifth high school reunion, a speech to [him]self masked as a speech to them" (2.10).
    • He starts writing it "after the reunion, in the dark, in bed, groping to understand what hit [him]" (2.10).
    • It's too long for the reunion, but it sounds good between three in the morning and six in the morning.
    • After the reunion, he drives home to the Berkshires, Massachusetts from New Jersey. It's an eight hour drive.
    • At three, he gets up and writes the speech until six.
    • Then he is able to relax and sleep a little.
    • He thinks he's so excited by the reunion because of his age, and because he's recently recovering from the prostate surgery.
    • He feels like he's "recapturing time past" (2.13).
    • He muses about the nature of time, and how it seemed so easy to understand when he was at the reunion, running into all the old acquaintances.
    • Mendy Gurlic, most handsome, class of 1950, is on the scene at the reunion.
    • He's the class bad boy, the guy who introduces Zuckerman to blues music.
    • Together Mendy and Zuckerman (as kids) go to watch DJ Bill Cook put on his Saturday night show.
    • Zuckerman says that "Mendy called it "boner music" (2. 18).
    • He can't believe Mendy is here before him, not in jail or hell, places Zuckerman thought he'd wind up when they were kids.
    • Actually, he's the owner of successful chain of steak houses.
    • Mendy looks great, but he tells Zuckerman that he was incredibly nervous about this reunion.
    • He shows Zuckerman in the reunion booklet that twenty people from their class are dead.
    • Mendy asks Zuckerman if he gets his prostate checked regularly.
    • Zuckerman says he does.
    • Mendy tells Zuckerman that he's the one who taught Zuckerman to masturbate.
    • Zuckerman thanks him, somewhat sarcastically.
    • Mendy says he's famous as the "the guy who taught Skip Zuckerman to jerk off" (2.35).
    • Zuckerman wishes he had asked people more questions at the reunion, but he was in a daze. Everything seemed too real, like he was seeing through to the truth of things.
    • He runs into a guy named Ira Posner who he doesn't recognize.
    • But Ira says that he used to come home with Zuckerman when they were kids, and that Zuckerman's father treated him so nicely that it changed his life.
    • He runs into Alan Meisner, whose father had dry cleaners. Alan is now "a superior court judge" (2.52).
    • After they eat dinner, and have dessert and coffee, someone asks Zuckerman, "Is it true what you said at the mike, you don't have kids or anything like that?" (2.54).
    • Around that moment, Zuckerman sees that Jerry Levov is at the reunion; he'd arrived late.
  • Part 1, Chapter 3

    • Nathan Zuckerman, Jerome Levov (Jerry)
    • (We are still in the high school reunion flashback.)
    • Zuckerman knows Jerry lives in Florida, so he assumed he wouldn't be at the reunion.
    • But here he is, with the same face Zuckerman remembers from the ping-pong ball matches, angry and hot tempered.
    • A man who knows nothing of "compromise" (3.1).
    • Jerry says he's surprised to see Zuckerman, too.
    • He says that the whole reunion business is "nostalgia. It's bullshit" (3.6).
    • (Jerry is using "nostalgia" to mean looking back with longing on an idealized past.)
    • Zuckerman thinks that Jerry's insistence on looking at things his own way explains why he's been married so many times.
    • Jerry asks Zuckerman why he decided to show up at the reunion.
    • Zuckerman says "of all the forms of bullshit-nostalgia available this was the one least likely to be without unsettling surprises" (3.9).
    • (Meaning, he came because he thought he could find some "unsettling surprises.")
    • Jerry keeps asking Zuckerman about his life.
    • He explains that he lives like a recluse, without women, just writing.
    • Jerry doesn't quite believe him.
    • Zuckerman changes the subject to the Swede, tells Jerry he saw him a few months ago.
    • Jerry tells him that the Swede died of cancer a few days before. Jerry is in town for the funeral.
    • Zuckerman can't believe it.
    • Jerry begins talking about his brother, and then reveals that the Swede had a daughter named Merry, who is a "murderer" (3.61).
    • He says that the Swede's "life was blown up by that bomb" (3.61).
    • Zuckerman doesn't know what Jerry is talking about.
    • Jerry explains that the Swede's daughter Merry, dubbed "The Rimrock Bomber" by the media, blew up the post office and killed a doctor in the process.
    • She did it to protest the Vietnam War. Jerry calls her a "Ho-Chi-Minhite" (3.67).
    • (Ho Chi Minh was "the founder and president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, Communist North". Jerry is using the term negatively, to refer to an American sympathizing with Minh during the Vietnam War.)
    • Zuckerman is amazed he didn't hear about it.
    • Jerry says it happened in 1968, when all the "kids [were] going crazy" (3.67).
    • The bomb tore the Swede apart. Everything was perfect for him before that.
    • Zuckerman wonders if Jerry's version of the Swede is influenced by the fact that the Swede is dead.
    • He asks Jerry if the Swede told him that the bomb wrecked his life.
    • Jerry says he did, but "only once" (3.70).
    • Apparently, about two years ago there was a Levov family dinner. The Swede was really enjoying himself.
    • The Swede had gotten up around desert time, and Jerry had followed him.
    • He found him in his car crying. He told Jerry, "I miss my daughter" (3. 70).
    • Jerry asked the Swede where she was and the Swede said, "She's dead, Jerry" (3.70).
    • At first, Jerry doesn't believe him, he tells Zuckerman.
    • But he feels a huge relief.
    • He tells the Swede that whether or not Merry is dead, the Swede needs to forget about her.
    • According to Jerry, worrying about Merry, but never showing his anger, is what finally killed the Swede.
    • Jerry continues, telling Zuckerman that the Swede was "fatally attracted to his duty" (3.74), that he was too concerned with doing his duty to have any of his own thoughts.
    • Jerry criticized the Swede's wife Dawn, Merry's mother. Nothing ever pleased her. Even the expensive face lift the Swede agreed to buy for her.
    • Merry was a stutterer, and, according to Jerry, "to pay everybody back for her stuttering, she set off the bomb" (3.76).
    • Jerry says he can't understand how Merry could hate a wonderful father like the Swede.
    • He can't understand how such a horrible child came from a man like the Swede.
    • Jerry continues raving, but when someone comes up to him and Zuckerman, Jerry wanders away and this is the last Zuckerman sees of him.
    • (End high school reunion flashback.)
    • Over the coming month Zuckerman writes about the Swede for up to ten hours a day, imagining his life.
    • First Zuckerman leaves in the real names and events that would identify the Swede.
    • Before he sets out to change the names and disguise the events, he has an urge to send the draft to Jerry.
    • (This is kind of a weird statement, because it implies that the Swede's name is changed in the book. Since we are reading the book in question, does this mean that the Swede's name is not really the Swede, or that we are reading the first draft?)
    • Anyhow, Zuckerman knows Jerry will just say that Zuckerman got the Swede wrong in the book.
    • He imagines Jerry saying, "this is the mind he didn't have. Christ, you even give him a mistress. Perfectly misjudged, Zuck. Absolutely off" (3.79).
    • Zuckerman seems to agree with Jerry on the point.
    • First, before writing the book Zuckerman goes to the "abandoned Newark Maid factory" (3.80), the Swede's childhood home, his home in Rimrock, and at the new store that was built to replace the one Merry had blown up along with the post office.
    • He goes to Elizabeth, New Jersey, where the Swede's wife Dawn was raised, and looks at her family church.
    • He is even able to get a photo of her being crowned Miss New Jersey, 1949.
    • Then he rereads the books by John Tunis, the ones he first saw in the Swede's childhood bedroom.
    • Zuckerman knows that his portrait of the Swede is different from the "real" Swede.
    • But, he thinks that because the Swede is so hard to see through, so deeply hidden, anyone could imagine his inner life, and it would be impossible to say who is right and who is wrong.
    • (The high school reunion flashback begins again.)
    • The woman who interrupts Jerry asks Zuckerman if he remembers her.
    • She says she's Joy Helpern.
    • He remembers her. She was a pretty girl with red hair, and she looked good in a sweater.
    • Zuckerman still fantasizes about her.
    • They are still attracted to each other, but as usual, Zuckerman is thinking about the Swede, and his daughter's bomb.
    • Zuckerman is thinking about the dinner at Vincent's, and how the Swede went on and on about his wonderful sons.
    • He must have thought Zuckerman knew about Merry and the bomb and was showing him that things were now okay.
    • Maybe, Merry was what the Swede really wanted to talk about to begin with.
    • Zuckerman thinks about how he really missed what was right in front of his face.
    • Yes, the story about writing a tribute to his father was just a ruse.
    • Merry is what was tearing him up inside. The mask Zuckerman saw was the mask he puts on for the world to keep them from seeing his horror.
    • He thinks the Swede must have known he was dying, and that as a dying man, the tragedy of his daughter haunted him worse than ever.
    • So, he thinks that maybe telling Zuckerman, "the writer" (3. 107) will somehow help.
    • But, Zuckerman imagines, the Swede realizes that telling him the story will only make it worse.
    • Zuckerman can't believe that the Swede "turned to [him], of all people, and he was conscious of everything and [Zuckerman] was conscious of nothing" (3.107).
    • He imagines the Swede's wife and sons and mother at the Rimrock house, mourning him.
    • Maybe, Merry isn't really dead, and she comes out of hiding to cry over her father's grave in disguise.
    • But then again, she probably is dead, Zuckerman thinks. Maybe she got murdered.
    • (We are still in the high school reunion flashback.)
    • As Zuckerman is thinking about the Swede, Joy is telling him the things he didn't know about her when they were kids.
    • Her father had died of a heart attack before she was ten and she and her mother and brother were poor.
    • Her brother slept in the kitchen, and she and her mother shared a bed.
    • She didn't get close to Zuckerman because she was ashamed of her family's poverty and didn't want him to see it.
    • The song "Dream" comes on and Joy starts to cry.
    • Zuckerman thinks about all the old days, and, of course, about the Swede.
    • He thinks that Merry is, "The daughter who transports [the Swede] out of the longed for American pastoral and […] into the indigenous American berserk" (3.114).
    • (For some discussion of this, see "What's Up With the Title.")
    • Zuckerman and Joy are dancing to "Dream" and Zuckerman is still thinking about the Swede.
    • He says, "I am thinking of the Swede's great fall and of how he must have imagined that it was founded on some failure of his own responsibility. […] It doesn't matter if he was the cause of anything. He makes himself responsible" (3.121).
    • (This is an important line because it shows that in the story to come, Zuckerman isn't blaming the Swede for what happened with Merry, but exploring how the Swede might have blamed himself.)
    • He wonders what the Swede might have done wrong with Merry that would have made him feel most responsible.
    • While he's dancing with Joy he begins to dream "a realistic chronicle" (3.123).
    • He first imagines the Swede "in Deal, New Jersey, at the seaside cottage, the summer when his daughter was eleven" (3.123).
    • (We are now in 1963)
    • They are driving back from the beach, and Merry "half innocently and half audaciously" (3.123) says, "Daddy, kiss me the way you k-k-kiss umumumother" (3.123).
    • He makes fun of her and her feelings are hurt.
    • He hasn't seen her so hurt in a long time.
    • Her mother puts lots of pressure on her to overcome the stuttering.
    • Merry thinks that the stuttering isn't a big problem, but how her mother feels about it is.
    • And now he's made fun of her.
    • She's stammering, and he holds her and kisses her passionately.
    • Uh oh.
    • He becomes a little frightened.
    • It was the first time he'd given over to a strange urge.
    • He knows it wasn't anything serious, and that it has only lasted a few seconds. It never happens again, but later on, when Merry starts to lose control, the Swede wonders if this was the moment that turned everything bad.
    • He would also wonder if he'd been to cold and distant with Merry after the kiss, out of fear that she was afraid he would do something like that again.
    • In doing so, maybe he made her feel unloved or rejected.
    • All he'd wanted to do was help her and make her feel better!
    • So, if it wasn't the kiss, what?
    • When Merry is eleven, she is really into Audrey Hepburn and keeps a scrapbook with pictures of her.
    • Before that she was into astronomy, 4-H, and she was even in love with Catholicism for a while, because of her very Catholic grandmother on her mother's side.
    • Merry tries really hard to be a great daughter.
    • She goes to ballet lessons, and she goes to speech therapy twice a week.
    • She rides her bike to her psychiatrist every Saturday on her own.
    • The Swede has issues with the psychiatrist because the man thinks Merry is using the stuttering as a tool to manipulate her parents.
    • The psychiatrist tells the Swede that because he and Dawn are so good looking and so successful, there is undue pressure on Merry to make herself perfect, and that she stutters to control them.
    • The Swede argue that she stutters because "her brain is so quick, so much quicker than her tongue— " (3.134).
    • The psychiatrist just tells the Swede that he sees "lots of fathers who won't accept, who refuse to believe—" (3.134).
    • The Swede is furious. He knows his daughter isn't in control, that the stuttering is controlling her.
    • At the suggestion of her speech therapist, Merry keeps a "stuttering diary" (3.136), a neat and tidy record of her stuttering. When she stutters, where she stutters, and what words and letters she stutters over.
    • But no matter what she did, she can't stop the stuttering, and she struggles to communicate.
    • Time passes. She gets really big and stops keeping clean.
    • She won't eat at home, but she eats burgers, fries, BLTs, and milkshakes all the time when she's out.
    • At sixteen, she's almost six feet tall, and "her classmates nicknamed her Ho Chi Levov" (1.38).
    • (From what we gather, Minh was not tall; the nickname suggests that she talks about sympathizing with Minh to her classmates.)
    • She takes to cursing out political figures and speaking heatedly about politics, all with the stutter.
    • Lyndon Johnson (president of the US from 1963 to 1969, roughly, from the time Merry is eleven, to the time she is 17) is the guy she hates the most.
    • She holds him personally responsible for the war.
    • She screams at him when he comes on the news.
    • She says "You f-f-ucking madman! You heartless mi-mi-mi-miserable m-monster!" (3.139).
    • The Swede and Dawn tell her that she does have power to try to influence political figures.
    • But she is just too angry.
    • She also talks on the phone all the time, and she's forgotten about trying to control her stuttering.
    • Babies and children are dying in Vietnam, and her stuttering problem seems insignificant to her.
    • Merry's anger and her political discussions are driving Dawn nuts.
    • She can't stand it when Merry says "the Democratic Republic of Vietnam" (3.141).
    • The Swede defends Merry, saying she has "a political position" (3.141).
    • Dawn and Merry argue all the time.
    • Merry accuses her of caring more about the cows.
    • (More on the cows soon.)
    • Swede plays the mediator between them.
    • He tries to convince Dawn that this will all pass, that it's a phase.
    • Dawn thinks Merry needs more discipline.
    • The Swede thinks they need to keep being "reasonable" (3.143) and keep having conversations with her.
    • Eventually, she will outgrow this sixteen-year-old angry phase.
    • They just have to keep being there for her.
    • The Swede keeps talking to Merry, and she keeps trying to find out what she's up to.
    • He becomes alarmed when she starts spending lots of time in New York City.
    • (The next few pages of the novel cover a total of sixty seven conversations the Swede has with Merry about her trips to New York. We don't get all sixty seven conversations; but the ones we do get are numbered.)
    • Apparently, Merry is hanging out with people who are "against the war" (3.145) and brings home literature on Communism.
    • The Swede doesn't like her staying overnight in the city.
    • He encourages her to try to protest the war from home in Rimrock.
    • She says she doesn't like living in Rimrock anymore, and would rather live in New York.
    • He asks her if she wants to go to college in New York when high school is over.
    • She says she's not sure she still wants to go to college.
    • When Merry doesn't come home again on a Saturday night, the Swede presses her for details.
    • She says she's with friends, friends of her friend Sherry.
    • The Swede says if she's going to spend the night in the city she has to stay with the family friends the Umanoffs.
    • Not the Umanoffs, she says.
    • She says she stays with some people named Bill, 19, and Mellissa, 22. Friends of Sherry.
    • Merry says she has a responsibility to try to stop the war, and that is more important than her responsibilities as a daughter.
    • She can't believe the Swede and Dawn can sit passively by while people are dying.
    • Merry does stay at the Umanoffs, but doesn't like it. She wants to be with the young people.
    • This goes on and on until conversation number sixty seven.
    • In this conversation, the Swede again encourages Merry to be active against the war from here in Rimrock.
    • Merry doesn't buy it, but she does stop going to New York, permanently, from what the Swede can see.
    • And then she blows up the post office.
    • The general store attached to it is also blown up.
    • So is Dr. Fred Conlon.
    • The store belonged to Russ Hamlin, who "had raised the American flag every morning since Warren Gamaliel Harding was president of the United States" (3.156).
  • Part 2, Chapter 4

    • Part 2 is called "The Fall." No, Roth isn't referring to the bleak Northern Irish serial killer drama. He's referring to Satan's fall from heaven.
    • Merry has been missing four months now.
    • Rita Cohen, who claims to be twenty-two but looks about eight, pays the Swede a visit.
    • The Swede thinks she's "dressed like Dr. King's successor, Ralph Abernathy, in freedom rider overcoat and ugly big shoes" (4.1.)
    • (Check out Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abernathy on a freedom ride.)
    • She has a "bush of wiry hair" (3.1) and "a bland baby face" (3.1).
    • It's hard for the Swede to believe she's really in college studying finance, and "doing a thesis on the leather industry in Newark, New Jersey."
    • It's even harder for him to believe she's the person who helped turn his daughter into a revolutionary.
    • Rita shows up at the factory one day, sneakily evading the FBI agents keeping watch and taking note of everyone who visits the Swede's office.
    • A few times a year someone writes asking for a tour of Newark Maid.
    • When the Swede's father Lou was running the company he was really into giving the tours, but the Swede doesn't enjoy it that much.
    • Still, from time to time, he'll personally give a student a tour.
    • If he knew that Rita wasn't really a student, but here about Merry, he definitely would not have agreed to a tour.
    • The Swede's office is in the middle of Newark Maid and surrounded by glass. This way, he can see what's going on, but has some privacy and relief from the sound of a couple hundred sewing machines.
    • When the Swede's Dad, Lou, was running the plant, he just put his desk in the middle of the floor, and he knew everything that was going on.
    • Lou loves gloves and loves the business, loves working, and loves worrying.
    • Worrying is one of Lou's keys to success.
    • Rita is in the Swede's office, and he's showing her a sheepskin.
    • She's asking lots of questions and writing down everything he says.
    • The Swede feels like the words coming out of his mouth as he talks about the glove industry are his father's words.
    • He's feeling really talkative, more talkative than he's felt since Merry disappeared.
    • As he watches little Rita taking notes and listening to him attentively, he remembers Merry as a third grader, touring the factory with her third grade class.
    • Seeing Rita, makes him feel like he is back in that wonderful time, the time before everything fell apart.
    • That's why he's feeling so talkative.
    • Soon, he tells Rita he's going to have a pair of gloves made for her right now.
    • He asks her what size gloves she wears, and she doesn't know.
    • Size four, he guesses, telling her that size four is the smallest size women's gloves come in.
    • He has her make a fist, and measures it. He's right. She wears a four.
    • Now, he takes her through the glove making process, narrating to her all the while.
    • She writes down everything he says and keeps asking questions.
    • He explains how he himself began as a glover, first by learning to cut leather from Harry, the Master cutter, the same man who's cutting the leather for Rita's gloves.
    • The Swede asks Rita, if she wants "black or brown, honey" (4.41).
    • She says brown.
    • He can't seem to stop calling her "honey" as he continues explaining each part of the process the gloves are going through, and she continues writing it all down.
    • She comments on how much he seems to love his work.
    • As the gloves are being made, and as the Swede is talking, he's thinking about Merry, thinking he's "half insane" (4.51) and that he's grieving.
    • With Rita, for the first time in a long time he feels relief from "this horrible riddle" (4.51) of his daughter.
    • He wishes he could find a way to make her stay there with him so he wouldn't have to think about Merry.
    • When the gloves are finished, he presents them to Rita and has her try them on.
    • They fit perfectly.
    • When they are alone in his office, Rita says, "She wants her Audrey Hepburn scrapbook" (4.52).
    • The day after that, the Swede goes to the Newark airport, meets Rita in the parking lot, and gives her the scrapbook.
    • The next week, he meets her there again and gives her Merry's ballet slippers and leotard.
    • A few days after that Rita demands, on Merry's behalf, the stuttering diary.
    • He begs Rita to let him see Merry or talk to her.
    • She says Merry doesn't want to see him and that she really hates him.
    • Rita says he exploits his workers in the Puerto Rico arm of Newark Maid, and that he exploits workers in countries outside the US.
    • For the first time, the Swede explodes with Rita, telling her he doesn't even have overseas factories, and that he doesn't exploit his workers. He tells her she doesn't know what she's talking about.
    • She compares him to a plantation owner, saying he's like Simon Legree in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.
    • The Swede says he doesn't have any use for her silly talk, and he demands that she tell him where Merry is.
    • She says Merry never wants to see the Swede or Dawn again.
    • Rita says that Dawn's vanity almost ruined Merry.
    • The Swede tells Rita that Dawn "works a farm all day" (4.81).
    • According to Rita, Dawn's work is "fake," "upper-class" farming (4.82).
    • Rita accuses Dawn of having thrown a party for Merry to celebrate getting her period in order to humiliate her.
    • The Swede knows the party Rita is talking about, and says it was a birthday party, that it had nothing to do with Merry getting her period.
    • According to Rita, Dawn hates Merry because she isn't beauty queen-level beautiful.
    • Again, the Swede defends Dawn, saying that all her actions toward Merry have been out of love, care, and worry.
    • Again, he demands to know where Merry is, reminding her that a man is dead, and Merry has been accused of the murder.
    • Rita refuses to tell him and reminds him that people are dying "every few minutes" in Vietnam.
    • She tells the Swede that Merry is safe, among people who love her. The Swede, she says, doesn't own her.
    • The Swede really can't believe Rita, can't imagine how she came to be the way she is, so incredibly thoughtless about the needs of others.
    • It must be the excitement she loves, he decides.
    • Rita calls him a "capitalist criminal" (4.108).
    • Suddenly, he thinks that Rita is just some "criminally insane Jewish kid" (4.109) who heard about Merry in the papers.
    • Maybe she did a little investigating and pieced together her story by talking to students at Merry's school.
    • Before the post office was bombed, Merry had apparently told her classmates that "Quaint old Rimrock is in for a big surprise" (4.112).
    • After the bombing, Dawn was convinced of Merry's innocence, convinced either that she'd been kidnapped, or that she'd been tricked by someone.
    • She couldn't imagine her daughter involved with dynamite and blowing things up.
    • The Swede believes this, too.
    • He'd given Rita all the things she'd asked for, and now he's about to meet Rita at the New York Hilton to give her five thousand dollars in small unmarked bills.
    • Dawn had encouraged him to go through with it, convinced that he would get Merry back by giving the money.
    • He'd even added another five thousand to the money Rita had asked for.
    • In the hotel room, Rita is reclining on the bed, and she asks the Swede to have sex with her.
    • He wonders if Rita is the leader of some gang Merry had been roped into.
    • She asks him if he's attracted to her.
    • He asks her why she's putting him through all this.
    • She says she wants him to become aware of reality.
    • Now, Rita starts impersonating Merry, stuttering and asking the Swede to have sex with her.
    • The Swede explodes, and Rita tells him to calm down and have sex with her.
    • She flashes him her vagina and asks him to look at it.
    • She tells him it's a size four.
    • Eventually, the Swede can't take it anymore, and he runs from the room, leaving the money behind.
    • He calls the FBI but it's too late; she's gone with the money.
    • Then, "Five years pass" (4.165).
    • (This is the first a several mini-sections where the Swede discusses what it means that five years pass.)
    • The Swede waits five years for Rita Cohen to come back to Newark Maid to see him.
    • He has no proof of her existence; no fingerprint or photographs.
    • At the request of the FBI he works with a sketch artist, and they create a picture of her.
    • The Swede watches the news all the time.
    • "Bombs are going off everywhere" (4.165).
    • Across America, all sorts of places are being bombed, some of them nearby.
    • He's sure Rita is behind some of them, and he's sure they'll catch her, the other bombers, and Merry.
    • The Swede sits up late in the kitchen, waiting for Rita to come back.
    • There are more bombs, lots more bombs.
    • When Merry has been gone about two years the Swede sees something on the news.
    • Some people in Greenwich Village (part of New York City) go away on vacation.
    • While they are gone, a huge explosion destroys their house and two women, one in her late teens and one in her early twenties, come out of the house.
    • They are "naked, bruised, and lacerated" (1.168).
    • A neighbor gives them clothes, but when she leaves them alone, they run away.
    • One of the girls is "the twenty-five year old daughter of the owners of the townhouse […]" (4.168).
    • She is also "a member of the revolutionary faction of the Students for a Democratic Society called the Weathermen" (4.168).
    • They've been using the house to make bombs.
    • The Swede thinks the other girl is Rita.
    • No wait, he thinks it's Merry.
    • He waits for them, for Merry and "the girl Weatherman" (4.169).
    • There hasn't been anyone watching the house or Newark Maid for over a year.
    • So, it's totally safe for Merry to come home.
    • He starts making soup for them and thinking back to when Merry loved her mother's cows and wanted to be a veterinarian.
    • More young people involved in bombings and radical groups are found dead.
    • The Swede is sure that one unidentified girl is Merry.
    • But the next day, more bombs go off, but this time the bombers give warning and the building is evacuated.
    • The Swede thinks, "Merry is alive!"(4.172).
    • The parents of the townhouse girl are shown on the news.
    • They say their daughter said that she wanted "To change the system and give political power to the ninety percent of the people who have little or no political control now" (4.174).
    • This is what Merry told the Swede and Dawn, too.
    • The parents of the other girl involved in the town house bombing come forward saying that they "know she is safe" (4.177).
    • Now, the Swede is mad.
    • These people's daughter definitely killed three people, and they get to know she's safe.
    • The Swede's daughter has been framed, and probably didn't kill anybody, and he doesn't get to know she's safe.
    • It's not fair.
    • He and Dawn are sure Merry is innocent because the kids at school said she'd bragged beforehand.
    • Merry is smarter than that. She never would have bragged.
    • (Now we come to the second section where the Swede explains the meaning of "five years pass" (4.178).
    • For five years, the Swede tries to understand what could have changed Merry so much.
    • Nothing quite makes sense until he remembers "the self immolation of the Buddhist Monks" (4.178) when Merry was eleven.
    • ("Self-immolation" means to light one's self on fire. Buddhist monks self-immolated to protest the South Vietnamese government of President Diem.)
    • (Flashback time again.)
    • Merry sees it on television, and it really freaks her out. She cries and cries.
    • The Swede is watching the news with her when it happens. He doesn't expect it any more than she does.
    • There on the television is a monk of about seventy-years-old.
    • He pours something flammable over himself.
    • Then he strikes a match and catches on fire.
    • The Swede, Dawn, and Merry watch in horror.
    • Yes, thinks the Swede. The monk has to be what did it.
    • Merry can't believe that a monk would have to do that to get people to pay attention.
    • For a whole week, Merry has to sleep with Dawn and the Swede because she is so disturbed.
    • But then, when she seems to have gotten over the event, more and more monks self-immolate, and Merry watches it all.
    • But the Swede is worried because Merry seems less frightened by the monks, and more "curious" (4.184).
    • Afraid of what might be going on in her head, he tries to distract her, and eventually when the immolations finally stopped, she seems to forget.
    • When The Swede hears that Diem is assassinated, he doesn't tell Merry; as far as he can tell, she doesn't even remember Vietnam exists.
    • (End flashback.)
    • Even when she herself becomes a political protester, she doesn't talk about the monks to the Swede.
    • What happened with the monks in 1963 doesn't seem to have anything to do with what happens to Merry in 1968.
    • (Now begins the third section where the Swede discusses what it means that "Five years pass" (4.184).
    • A young woman named Angela Davis, a professor at UCLA, and civil rights activist is charged with "kidnapping, murder, and conspiracy" (4.188) in connection with an attempt to break some men out of jail.
    • There are worldwide protests over Davis' charges, and lots of people believe she's been framed.
    • Angela Davis' hair reminds the Swede of Rita.
    • The Swede becomes obsessed with Angela Davis.
    • He thinks he saw some of Davis' writing in Merry's things before she left.
    • The FBI took all of Merry's books and papers, so he can't be sure.
    • He knows Merry would have outgrown this revolutionary stuff like she did everything else.
    • If only she had waited.
    • She was always so impatient.
    • The Swede begins fantasizing that Davis comes to his kitchen. He fantasizes the conversations he has with her.
    • She tells him that "everything he's heard about Communism is a lie" (4.192) and that he needs to go to Cuba to learn the truth.
    • She listens patiently to everything he tells her.
    • "She tells him that Imperialism is a weapon used by wealthy whites to pay black workers less for their work" (4.192).
    • The Swede tells Angela Davis about Vicky, the forelady in charge of Newark Maid. She is black and the Swede doesn't exploit her.
    • During the 1967 riots in Newark, Vicky had stayed with the Swede in the building and put up signs in the windows saying "Most of this factory's employees are negroes" (4.195).
    • Someone (the Swede thinks it was the Newark police) shot out each of the windows that held a sign.
    • After the riots, the Swede still stayed in Newark. He thought that if he didn't, Merry would accuse him of hurting his black workers (she hasn't dropped the bomb yet).
    • Even his father wanted him to get out of Newark, but because of Merry he just can't.
    • He tells this to Angela Davis, hoping to gain her sympathy so she can help him find his daughter.
    • He even fibs a little and tells her that he attends meetings all around the city for the cause of liberation.
    • Everything he thinks Angela want to hear, he tells her.
    • Then he thinks that he should have had sex with Rita Cohen. He should have done it so Rita would take him to Merry. He should have done whatever was necessary.
    • (By the way, Davis was found innocent of all charges).
    • (And now we come to the final section where the Swede explains what some more of what he means by, "'Five years pass'" (4.203))
    • What we've heard so far is only, "A very tiny part" (4.203) of what happens over the five years since Merry's disappearance.
    • Everything he sees reminds him of his missing daughter.
    • It takes a year for them to rebuild the store destroyed in the blast.
    • Everyone in town, including the Swede, has to drive all the way to Morristown to buy milk, stamps, even a newspaper.
    • There is a little school house across the street from where the store and post office used to be.
    • The children and the teachers see the blank space for over a year.
    • Tourists come to look at it.
    • The Swede even gets "anti-Semitic mail" (4.203).
    • He hears gossip about his daughter, his family.
    • There is a community club bulletin board on the street near where the store used to be.
    • Tacked to it is, "An editorial recording the tragedy and commemorating Dr. Conlon" (4.203).
    • The Swede wants to take it down, but knows he can't.
    • Another article tacked to the board is titled, "Distance Heals all Wounds," (4.203) and it's by the minister of the First Congregational Church. It's a sermon.
    • The final article tacked to the board is an interview with Edgar Bartley.
    • Edgar and Merry had been to the movies together.
    • In the article Edgar is said to be Merry's boyfriend.
    • Edgar has only nice things to say about Merry in the article.
    • He's quoted as saying, "I only hope we can find her so that she can get the help she needs" (4.204).
    • The Swede is really, really glad nobody had tacked up the article called "Suspected Bomber is Described as Bright, Gifted but with "Stubborn Streak" (4.204).
    • There were awful stories about Merry in all the papers, but somehow this one hits the Swede harder than all the others.
    • That one he would have had to tear down.
    • In the article some of the teachers have nice things to say about Merry.
    • Some students are quoted as saying she had some anger issues, and she was upset about the Vietnam War.
    • (It's not quite clear to us why the Swede objects so much to this particular article. The article is reproduced in the novel, 4.205-4.219. Read it and see what you think.)
    • Then a new store is built, McPherson's Store.
    • It's actually an improvement over the old one.
    • Dawn can't go in there, but the Swede makes a point to use the store, just as he had used the old one.
    • On the outside, nothing has changed for the Swede.
    • Inside everything is awful. Everything haunts him. He can't sleep and can't stop punishing himself.
    • He wonders if the kiss he gave Merry when she was eleven could possibly be the cause. He wonders, in agony, if anything is the cause.
    • He decides all he can do is keep up the outer façade and keep on suffering inside.
  • Part 2, Chapter 5

    • The chapter begins with a letter dated September 1, 1973.
    • It begins, "Dear Mr. Levov" (5.1).
    • It says that Merry works at a "dog and cat hospital […] in the Ironbound Section of Newark" (5.2).
    • Merry (according to the letter) works there every day and gets off at around four in the afternoon.
    • The letter says not to tell Merry that the letter-writer told the Swede where to find her.
    • The letter writer says that until now he or she has done everything Merry told him or her to do.
    • The only time the letter writer has ever told Merry a lie is after the visit to the hotel room.
    • (Uh oh. As you've probably guessed, the letter must be from the Swede's old nemesis, Rita Cohen.)
    • The one lie Rita told Merry was that she and the Swede had sex.
    • If Rita hadn't told Merry she'd had sex with the Swede, Merry wouldn't have accepted the money from the Swede.
    • Rita only tormented the Swede to help Merry.
    • She loves Merry.
    • In the letter Rita says, "Your daughter is divine" (5.2).
    • The letter, in capital letters, warns the Swede not to tell Merry that Rita wrote the Swede a letter.
    • She says to make sure he isn't followed. She knows that Merry would die if the FBI got her.
    • Merry is now going by the name of Mary Stoltz.
    • The letter is signed, The Disciple Who Calls Herself "Rita Cohen" (5.3).
    • The Swede hadn't been expecting this. He never expects the unexpected.
    • He's been waiting five years for a letter like this, and now he's got it.
    • And now Dawn is finally better and is designing a new house for them to live in.
    • Things have calmed down.
    • How can the Swede let the horror back into their life.
    • Over the past five years, Dawn was hospitalized two times for "suicidal depression" (5.6).
    • He'd been afraid she'd be hospitalized for the rest of her life and that he'd be visiting her in hospitals for the rest of her life, bringing her flowers and trying to comfort her.
    • (Flashback time)
    • She's afraid all the time.
    • Sometimes she berates the Swede.
    • She says she never wanted this kind of life.
    • She wanted to be a music teacher in the public school system of her home town of Elizabeth, New Jersey.
    • Being Miss New Jersey was the worst thing she could have done.
    • She only entered the pageant in the first place to win money so her brother could go to college without her father paying for it.
    • Then the Swede was there, drooling over her, "This huge animal [she] couldn't get rid of!" (5.6).
    • She accuses him of turning her into "a princess" (5.7) and now she's crazy.
    • She gets mad at him like that, accuses him, makes up with him, and then gets angry the next night when he comes to visit.
    • The Swede, she says, and the Miss America Pageant had diverted her from "her real ambitions" (5.6).
    • She doesn't understand why everybody was so sure she'd be Miss America 1949.
    • It was and still is amazing to her that she won Miss New Jersey and then Miss Union County.
    • Dawn says she didn't know anything about make-up and hair styles like the other pageant girls.
    • For the Miss America pageant, she'd even had to learn to walk in a special way.
    • The whole Miss America business was so weird and crazy.
    • The only reason she married the Swede, she says, was because she wanted "something normal" (5.6).
    • The stupid beauty queen crown made her feel like a freak.
    • When the Swede drives home from visiting Dawn it makes him feel better to think of how it really was back then.
    • He remembers how much she loved being a contestant in the Miss America Pageant.
    • (Begin new flashback.)
    • The week Dawn is in Atlantic City, New Jersey for the pageant, in 1949, she and the Swede talk every night on the phone.
    • He's amazed at how excited she is about herself.
    • Maybe, she won't be happy with a guy like him, he thinks.
    • If she wins, all kinds of stars will be after her.
    • But, as her current boyfriend, the idea of her winning is exciting.
    • Sometimes they talk for as long as an hour, with Dawn filling him in on all the details.
    • The car she gets to keep if she wins, the hotel, her chaperone, the candy waiting in the room for her when she'd arrived, the meals and the crowds of people—all this she relates to the Swede in breathless excitement.
    • Dawn is sure she isn't going to win. She's sure it will be Miss Texas, no matter what the Swede says.
    • One of the judges seems to be really into her, and the Swede tells her he's sure she has it in the bag.
    • But Dawn doesn't win.
    • The winner is Jacque Mercer from Arizona.
    • She tells the Swede it was terrible having to go to the ball after the pageant, knowing she hadn't won the contest.
    • But for months afterwards all she talks about is the pageant.
    • It was the most exciting thing that had happened to her, and she didn't want to let it go.
    • (End flashback)
    • In 1969, when Dawn is in the hospital for the second time after Merry's disappearance, an invitation to the Miss America Reunion comes for Dawn.
    • Knowing how she currently feels about all of that, the Swede doesn't show her the invitation.
    • Soon after, something changes with Dawn. She decides to live again.
    • First, she decides she wants a face lift from a doctor she's read about in Geneva, Switzerland.
    • Knowing that if Dawn is hospitalized again, they will probably give her electroshock therapy, he agrees to take her for the surgery, agrees to do anything that could possibly help her.
    • After the surgery she looks awful and can't stop vomiting. The Swede is afraid that the face lift is just the next step toward her eventual death.
    • But, (as usual), "He was totally wrong" (5.23).
    • Several days before the Swede gets the letter from Rita, he notices a letter on Dawn's desk next to an envelope.
    • It's from Dawn to the surgeon who did her face lift.
    • In the letter, she is thanking him for doing her surgery a year ago and for restoring her beauty.
    • Now, she has a new life.
    • Before that, just after her face is healed, Dawn decides she wants to build a new house on ten acres of the property. She wants to sell the big stone house and the hundred acres.
    • In 1969, the year after Merry's disappearance, they sold "the beef cattle and the farm machinery" (5.24).
    • The Swede is really hurt when he hears Dawn tell the architect Bill Orcutt, their neighbor, that "she always hated the house" (5.24).
    • He feels like she told the neighbor that she had always hated him, the Swede.
    • He takes a long walk and dreams about the house.
    • (Another flashback)
    • He falls in love with it the first time he sees it, when he was sixteen and spent lots of time trying to decide which girl to pick to live in it with him when he can eventually buy it.
    • At college in Upsala, he sees Dawn and begins to follow her around and crushing on her.
    • He knows he's really good looking, but he worries that because he's been a marine, and because he was engaged to a girl before, she might think he's "a beast of prey" and tell him to beat it.
    • So, it takes him a whole semester to ask her out.
    • He's also afraid that once he asks her out she'll be able to see his fantasy of her living with him in the old stone house with their daughter "Merry" (5.29).
    • (This is a bit of a confusing moment. It's not clear whether the Swede is inserting a dream of a daughter called Merry into his memory, or whether he actually dreamed of having a daughter named Merry before he asks Dawn out.)
    • (End flashback.)
    • The Swede understands why Dawn wants to sell the house, even though he doesn't discuss it with her.
    • She wants to sell it because it's full of memories of Merry.
    • Now, she's excited and happy planning the new house.
    • But it still irks him that she told Orcutt she'd always hated the house.
    • She even told him that the reason she'd gotten all the cows was to give her an excuse to stay out of the house she hated.
    • Hearing it made the Swede feel like he heard her confessing to cheating on him, to cheating on the house.
    • He feels like an idiot for loving the house and their life and thinking that she did, too.
    • If only they'd had more children, brothers and sisters for Merry to play with.
    • But Dawn hadn't wanted to have lots of kids, "she wanted to raise beef cattle" (5.32).
    • She wanted to dispel the impression that she was nothing more than a pretty face, an ex-beauty queen.
    • Even though she has a degree, she knows what people see. She hates being stared at and considered beautiful.
    • Plus, the women are threatened by her and think she is after their men.
    • Her grandfather had raised cattle, and she has always loved cows.
    • She doesn't want to raise cows for milk because that would require too many employees.
    • Breeding beef cattle, she decides, is the way to go, and so she studies up and makes a plan.
    • Dawn works really hard and invests lots of money.
    • She buys a bull called Count for ten thousand dollars.
    • He remembers Dawn and little Merry out together with Count and the other cows. They looked so happy.
    • The Swede supposes it doesn't matter if Dawn hated the house. He has so much, and he's willing to be strong for her to make her happy.
    • Whatever it takes, a hundred percent.
    • Besides, he knows it is just the memories of Merry that she can't take.
    • Happy memories of waking Merry up in the morning in her bed to help with the cows.
    • Memories of swimming with Merry, of Merry confiding in her about how mean the kids at school were.
    • Memories of Merry baking cookies, cooking baked ziti for dinner once a week to help her mother.
    • The Swede can't hate all those memories, and he can't hate the house!
    • He can't even hate Merry, even though he thinks it would be much easier if he could.
    • If only he could go back to the way things were before!
    • If only he could hate the house and Merry the way that Merry hated America.
    • The Swede loves America, but he'd been too afraid of Merry's reaction to try to explain it to her.
    • She would have despised him if she'd know how much he loves America.
    • (Another flashback, this one mingled with the Swede's present feelings on the day he gets the letter from Rita.)
    • He loves the way he'd gotten his all-American nickname "The Swede" on his first day of high school.
    • The nickname is all-American because it came from his gym teacher. The gym teacher calls him "Swede" and from then on so does everybody else.
    • He also loves the "American way" his father talks, the way he calls the people "Mac" and "Chief" (5.50).
    • He loves the feeling of victory when World War II is won by the Americans.
    • Who is Merry to spit on that, on those feelings?
    • During the final months of high school for the Swede, when he can't wait to join the Marines, he follows the war closely.
    • As The Swede wins games, the killing and the bombings and the battle go on, and America wins the war.
    • He loves being in boot camp when he joins the Marines.
    • His drill instructor calls him "Ee-oh," (5.52) dropping the "L" and the "v"s from his name.
    • He's eighteen, and he can't wait to fire a machine gun, "to fire the tank killer [and] the hand-held bazooka rocket" (5.52).
    • The Swede wants to show his patriotism and to show he's not afraid.
    • He wants "to help win the war" (5.52).
    • By the time he joins the Marines, the war is over.
    • Still, he loves boot camp, loves being in the Marines, loves the other Marines he meets.
    • Everything he loves is American, and now he doesn't have to be quiet about it to try to calm Merry's "ignorant hatred" (5.52).
    • For Merry, "being an American was loathing America, but loving America was not something [the Swede] could let go of" (5.53).
    • How could she despise what she knows nothing about?
    • How could she hate the system that allowed her parents to succeed?
    • Three generations of men had "slogged through the slime and stink of the tannery" (5.53).
    • They were poor and they struggled but Merry thinks they are "capitalist dogs" (5.23).
    • He loves everything she hates about America.
    • He loves Dawn.
    • He should tear up the stupid letter.
    • Rita Cohen and the gang are "back!" (5.54).
    • They toyed with him five years ago, and now they are back "to laugh" (5.54) again.
    • Rita's letter has to be a joke.
    • It would be worse if it wasn't.
    • Rita calling herself Merry's "Disciple" (5.54).
    • Rita and her gang hate the Levovs because they've made it, found success.
    • They've just been using Merry all along.
    • False revolutionaries.
    • Cowards.
    • They love watching the Levovs fall.
    • He thinks of Doc Conlon, dead because of their game.
    • (Another flashback.)
    • Dawn is "under sedation" after the Doc is killed in the bombing.
    • The Swede goes first to the Hamlins, the owners of the store and tells them how sorry he is.
    • Then he goes to Doc Conlon's wake and then visits his widow, one of the hardest things he's ever done in his life.
    • It must be incredibly hard for her, too, but she makes him tea and talks to him.
    • She says she doesn't blame him and Dawn, and she knows they are good parents.
    • Even if Merry is the bomber, she won't blame the Swede and Dawn.
    • She feels "badly" (5.55) for the Levovs because they have "lost a child," which is worse, she says, than losing a husband or a father.
    • But Rita and her gang don't care about doctors and community hospitals.
    • They've taken down a post office in the name of liberation.
    • The irony is that it wasn't even a real post office. It wasn't a government property.
    • "They were laughing at him. Life was laughing at him" (5.56).
    • For weeks after his visit with Mrs. Conlon, the Swede thinks about how sure she sounded that his family was destroyed, and it makes him wonder if there wasn't something besides "her kindness and her compassion" in her words.
    • It is the first and the last time he visits her.
    • (End flashback.)
    • (We are back to the day that the Swede gets the letter from Rita.)
    • So, the Swede is on a mission now.
    • He tells the secretary that he's headed for New York City to sort out some things for the trip he's planning to Czechoslovakia on business for Newark Maid.
    • He can see that it's cheaper now (in 1973) to make gloves in Czechoslovakia than Newark or Puerto Rico. (What used to be Czechoslovakia is now two states, Czech Republic and Slovakia. In 1973 Czechoslovakia was under Communist rule.)
    • The Swede knows the factory in Newark can't last.
    • He explains it to Merry in his head in a sarcastic bitter tone.
    • He won't keep the factory in Newark out of fear she'll hate him for it.
    • Everybody has been waiting for this moment, for Merry to come back. The whole family has been waiting, all day, every day, for the past five years.
    • The Swede doesn't go to New York on business; that was just a cover in case someone comes looking for him.
    • He's actually headed for the dog and cat hospital.
    • By car, it's only ten minutes from the Newark Maid factory.
    • Has she been right here in Newark, this close, "for years?" (5.64).
    • It never ever crossed his mind that she was this close.
    • Why, he wonders, can't he ever guess what his daughter will do?
    • She's working in one of the worst places in America.
    • It's full of the ruins of Civil War factories (where guns and munitions were made): really dangerous factories people got mangled and killed working in.
    • At this point in time, the Swede feels like Newark is dead, and that this part of town is its "tomb" (5.65).
    • The factories here aren't burned out, because the rioters hadn't come back here.
    • The Swede's dad, Lou, used to pick up piecework from families that lived near here.
    • He remembers his father quizzing him constantly about the intricacies of the leather and leather-making when they would make the trips to distribute the leather and pick up the goods.
    • When the Swede actually gets to the dog and cat hospital, he knows that nobody lives in a neighborhood like this for long. They either leave or die.
    • He can't make the jump from Merry in Rimrock to Merry here.
    • The hospital is literally falling apart, and the Swede is struck with the loneliness of it all.
    • He thinks Merry, "My stupid, stupid Merry dear" (5.74), is just fighting against loneliness, and that nothing helps.
    • He thinks, "not all the bombing campaigns in history have made a dent in it" (5.74).
    • (Flashback.)
    • When Merry is two she tells her father, "I'm lonesome" (5.75).
    • He can't imagine where she heard such a sad word.
    • As she gets older, she can always talk to the Swede.
    • She talks to him a lot about how Dawn's getting on her case about too many things like what Merry takes to school for lunch.
    • When Merry's in the fifth grade, Merry gives Dawn an IOU-dinner every Saturday night.
    • And every Saturday night she makes baked ziti for Dawn and she does all the cleaning.
    • Once a month, he takes the family to Vincent's (which you probably remember from early in the novel) to eat Vincent's ziti.
    • Merry loved it.
    • She was loved and she was loving—the most loved and the most loving.
    • (End flashback.)
    • He waits almost an hour outside the hospital, and he would have waited all night, leaning against a lamppost in his expensive suit in one of the worst neighborhoods in town.
    • But he doesn't have to wait all night.
    • He sees a tall woman, but he would never, ever, have recognized her as Merry.
    • She must look pretty bad because the Swede starts freaking out inside.
    • No way can Dawn see this.
    • He wants to escape, but he can't just let her go, not when she's like this.
    • And then Merry sees him and it's too late to run, even if he could have.
    • He doesn't know what he would have run away to.
    • He'll never be the old Swede again. That life is gone.
    • Merry couldn't have missed him if she'd tried.
    • He is such a sharp contrast to the streets around him.
    • He's "the handsomest father a girl could have" (5.82).
    • Looking "frightful" she runs to him and throws her arms around him like when she was a kid.
    • She's wearing a veil across her mouth that looks like it's made from the foot of some panty hose.
    • Merry's saying "Daddy! Daddy!" (5.83).
    • "They are crying intensely, the dependable center whose center is the source of all order […] and the daughter who is chaos itself" (5.83).
  • Part 2, Chapter 6

    • Chapter Six begins with the statement, "She had become a Jain" (6.1).
    • The Swede doesn't know what a Jain is until Merry tells him, without stuttering.
    • She tells him that the Jains are "a relatively small Indian [as in India] religious sect" (6.1).
    • He believes that much, but he doesn't know how much of Merry's Jainism is typical, and how much she's come up with herself.
    • The veil she wears is supposed to stop her from hurting "the microscopic organisms […] in the air" (6.1).
    • She doesn't take baths so she can't hurt the water.
    • By denying all pleasure and by practicing "ahimsa or nonviolence" she can become a "'perfected soul'" (6.2).
    • She has her vows taped up on index cards near where she sleeps on a dirty mat.
    • Merry looks like she's starving to death, literally.
    • Her room is tiny and filthy, and there are homeless people living in filth in the hallway outside of her room.
    • The trains are to be heard rolling overhead.
    • To get to her house, you have to go through one of the most dangerous underpasses in the world.
    • They have to walk because she doesn't believe in using motor vehicles.
    • A century ago the building where Merry's room is was a good boarding house.
    • Now it's wreckage.
    • He can't believe that after three generation of immigrants had made the Levovs a successful family, it all falls apart with the fourth generation child.
    • There aren't any windows in Merry's room.
    • The Swede is furious when he sees her filthy hallway.
    • He thinks that she would have lived better if she were one of Dawn's cows.
    • He thinks of what it would do to Dawn to see this room.
    • Now, he reads Merry's vows on the wall.
    • She renounces killing, angry speech and lying, "taking anything not given" (6.9), sex, and becoming attached to things.
    • Again, he starts trying to figure out where he went wrong.
    • Was it the kiss?
    • It couldn't be that.
    • Maybe, the mistake was in taking her too seriously. Maybe, he should have slapped her instead, he thinks.
    • If he had smacked her, then he could understand this, the veil, the filth.
    • This isn't real, he thinks.
    • But it is.
    • Merry is filthy and smelly and veiled, "a scarecrow" (5.26) in rags.
    • He'd rather she was angry and stuttering than this. He liked her better before.
    • She says she's been in Newark for six months.
    • The Swede is stunned: six whole months.
    • He's really mad and wishes he could disappear.
    • At the same time, how can he go sleep in his comfortable bed knowing she's here?
    • He wants to grab her and take her away.
    • She's been a Jain about a year.
    • Since she considers eating vegetables killing, she eats just enough to stay alive and is incredibly thin.
    • She found out about Jainism from books in the library, and she attends no church.
    • Her voice is a monotone.
    • The Swede is telling her he doesn't understand how this has happened.
    • Without stuttering, she explains her religious beliefs.
    • When the Swede asks if she is responsible for post office bomb, she admits it easily.
    • He asks her who put her up to it, and she says it was Lyndon Johnson.
    • Convinced that people made her do it, he presses her.
    • She says it was her own idea.
    • The Swede tells her he thinks that she's living this way because she's afraid of having to face the punishments for her crimes.
    • He tells her she's going to wind up dead living this way.
    • When the Swede asks Merry who Rita Cohen is, she says she doesn't know.
    • She's says she's never sent anyone to talk to the Swede about her.
    • He's exploding inside from the craziness of it all.
    • She tells him where she's been since she left Rimrock.
    • (Flashback time again!)
    • Right after the bombing she hides for two days in the home of her speech therapist Sheila Salzman.
    • Then she goes underground.
    • In about sixty days she has fifteen false names and doesn't stay in a single place for even a week.
    • She gets a birth certificate of a baby who died young; the name of the baby is Merry Stoltz.
    • Using the birth certificate Merry gets a social security card and a driver's license in that name.
    • In Chicago, on her way to a commune in Portland, Merry is raped and robbed.
    • The loneliness is worse than ever in Chicago and every day she considers calling Rimrock.
    • She's raped a second time before leaving for Oregon.
    • The Swede learns that, "In Oregon she was involved in two bombings" (6.159).
    • He asks her how many people besides Doc Conlon died from her bombs.
    • She tells him she's killed three people.
    • At the commune Merry learns to build bombs, and this is what finally makes the stuttering disappear.
    • Merry's been having a sexual relationship with a married woman there, and when there's a problem with the woman's husband, Merry has to leave.
    • At another hideout, this one at an Idaho potato farm, Merry decides to go to Cuba. She thinks she'll "be able to live among the workers without having to worry about violence" (6.172).
    • By this time, she decides that "there could never be a revolution in America" (6.172).
    • She thinks that in Cuba she can be herself and start a new life. At night, she studies Spanish.
    • More "sexual incidents" (6.172) occur.
    • For about a year, she tries to arrange to go to Cuba.
    • In Miami, she teaches English to refugees in the park and is almost caught by an FBI agent.
    • She always thinks FBI agents are on her trail, but this time it's for real.
    • The second time she sees the FBI agent in the park she runs away.
    • When she sees "a blind black woman begging in the street" (6.174), she stops.
    • Merry hides in the woman's coat, which is on the pavement.
    • The woman agrees to help her, and Merry puts on the coat and helps the woman beg.
    • Soon after, Merry begins to study religion.
    • Merry lives with the woman, Bunice, until Bunice gets cancer and dies.
    • Around this time, she takes up Jainism and nonviolence.
    • The Swede can't imagine any of this happening to his daughter.
    • He can't imagine that she's wearing a panty-hose veil, and that she's been living just ten minutes away from Newark Maid for the past six months.
    • He can't believe she's been raped, that she's made bombs, that she's killed four people.
    • So he tells her she's not his daughter.
    • She says she is.
    • He asks her why she doesn't ask about Dawn.
    • Merry says she doesn't want to talk about her mother.
    • The Swede asks her to prove she's his daughter, and she says some of the answers to his questions will hurt him.
    • Answer them anyway, he tells her.
    • He wants to know why she's pretending to be Merry, and who Rita Cohen is.
    • Losing it, the Swede explodes, telling her that this way of life is wrong and demanding that she tell him where the real Merry is, demanding she tell him the truth.
    • After crying her name, he tears the veil off of her face and demands that she speak to him without it.
    • She closes her mouth tightly, and he tries to pry open her mouth.
    • When he gets her mouth open, he grabs her tongue.
    • One of her front teeth is gone.
    • This pleases him because it mean she can't be Merry. Merry has had perfect dental care, and has perfect teeth.
    • Again, he demands that she speak, and suddenly he smells how bad she smells.
    • It's so gross that he throws up "onto her face" (6.196), screaming "Who are you!" (6.196).
    • He looks at her and knows it's her. Her eyes give her away. Those are his daughter's eyes.
    • The Swede starts backing away, and she watches him.
    • He asks her to come with him; she tells him to go.
    • She says if he loves her, he'll leave her alone.
    • All the Swede can think about are the rapes.
    • The rape of a daughter is the worst thing he can imagine.
    • To learn of three more people dead, to learn their names and who they were—the Swede just can't believe it.
    • The rape is the only thing he can actually imagine. Thinking of the rape blocks all the other stuff out.
    • So he thinks about it, wants to know who they are. He wants to find out who they are from Merry and "kill them!" (6.209)
    • But he knows it's too late.
    • How can she live this way?
    • A few days later the Swede is back at Newark Maid, back at his desk.
    • Nobody is in the factory but the Swede.
    • There's a night watchman in the parking lot.
    • When the Swede comes to work every day he knows he has to leave.
    • There are no more factories in Newark.
    • This quiet is worse than the 1967 riots, the chaos, the constant sirens, the looting.
    • He and Vicky the forewoman stayed in the factory to protect the family business, amidst explosions and gunfire and screaming.
    • The Swede doesn't "abandon" Newark Maid, and after the riots he doesn't abandon his workers.
    • And Merry is still raped.
    • He can't stop picturing it in his mind, hearing Merry's cries, hearing the laughing of her attackers.
    • The urge to do something to stop them is overwhelming because it's way too late to do anything.
    • He remembers how cute and perfect she was as a baby.
    • Other than the stuttering she was a completely normal kid.
    • How could this happen?
    • The Swede decides to call his brother Jerry (remember him from the beginning of the novel?).
    • He knows that Jerry is probably not the best person to call for comfort, but Jerry is the only brother he has.
    • It's Friday afternoon, about five p.m.
    • Jerry's in his office and has patients waiting, but he says he can talk.
    • The Swede tells him Merry's story.
    • Jerry asks the Swede what he's going to do.
    • He tells Jerry that Merry's admitted to killing Conlon and bombing the post office, but he can't tell Jerry about the other three deaths.
    • In Jerry's opinion, The Swede should forcibly remove Merry from that room.
    • The Swede wants to know what he's supposed to do after he forces Merry to come home.
    • Then he tells Jerry about the other three murders and that Merry was raped.
    • Jerry's not surprised. This is just what he'd expected to happen to Merry.
    • If the Swede doesn't go get her, she's going to get raped again.
    • If the Swede loves her, he'll go get her.
    • He tells Jerry that he does love her; Jerry says he loves her like a possession, not like a person.
    • Jerry says the Swede is afraid to "make a scene" (6.241), afraid of letting everybody see what Merry has become.
    • Jerry is on the attack now, accusing the Swede of "always trying to smooth everything over" (6.242), about being too concerned with appearances.
    • Jerry says that Merry blew polite appearances all to hell.
    • The Swede wants to hang up, but knows he'll be alone if he does, and he won't know if Jerry has anything helpful to tell him.
    • Jerry goes on and on, stabbing away at the Swede with words.
    • He claims that the Swede keeps everything inside, that he hides himself from the world under a disguise of perfection, that he follows all the rules too closely, that he's not real.
    • This is why Merry did what she did, Jerry says.
    • He says that the Swede doesn't know anything about anything, and that the Swede lives in his "old man's dream world […] up there with Lou Levov in glove heaven" (6.256).
    • Jerry tells the Swede, "You want Miss America? Well, you've got her, with a vengeance—she's your daughter!" (6.258).
    • If the Swede really loved his daughter, he wouldn't have left her there in the awful room.
    • The Swede is crying now.
    • He tries to explain how hard it was for him to leave Merry there.
    • Still crying, the Swede tries to defend himself. This isn't his fault.
    • Nobody could deal with this situation.
    • He tells the Swede to forget about Merry, to admit that Merry hates her father and then forget about her.
    • Then he offers to go get Merry. He says she won't mess with him the ways she's been messing with the Swede.
    • The Swede says no; he doesn't want Jerry to go get Merry.
    • Jerry doesn't understand.
    • Jerry lays into him a little more and then says he has patients waiting.
  • Part 3, Chapter 7

    This last part, Part 3, is called Paradise Lost. Yup, like John Milton's Paradise Lost.

    • That summer (the summer of 1973) the Levovs watch the Watergate hearings from the back porch of their Rimrock home.
    • When Dawn still had the cows and they still had Merry, they would sit out here watching the herd.
    • In the mornings, Merry and Dawn would get up early to herd them.
    • Lou and Sylvia, the Swede's parents, have been here at the Rimrock house for about a week for a late summer vacation.
    • Dawn spends most of her time away from the Rimrock house, working on planning the new house.
    • Lou and Sylvia watch the Watergate hearings during the day and then again at night.
    • Lou writes letters to public officials and reads them to the family at dinner.
    • The letter writing has been going on for a long time.
    • When Merry began to get upset about the Vietnam War, Lou had begun mailing her the letters he writes, his own protests against the war.
    • He hopes Merry will channel her own anger into letter writing.
    • Merry doesn't buy it. She and Lou have lots of arguments about it.
    • She just doesn't believe letter writing works.
    • He tells Merry she can even join "the other side" (7.29), fight for a foreign army against the United States, even though she would be called a traitor, like Benedict Arnold.
    • Nothing Lou says does any good.
    • But he persists. He sees something bad about to happen with Merry, and he doesn't stop trying.
    • When the Swede gets home [after his visit with Merry and the call to Jerry] there aren't any messages for him.
    • Dawn's in the kitchen making salad.
    • When he comes out on the porch with his drink his mother and father are there.
    • His mother asks if he's going to grill some steak.
    • He says, "Steak, corn, salad, and Merry's big beefsteak tomatoes" (7.45).
    • Uh. Oh. He didn't mean to say "Merry." He meant to say "Dawn."
    • It gets Sylvia started talking about Merry and what a good girl she was.
    • She starts getting sad, and the Swede reminds her not to talk about Merry or get sad in front of Dawn.
    • She agrees, but then asks if he thinks Merry is in Canada, like the men who dodged the draft.
    • The Swede asks if she'll please save the questions for a time when Dawn isn't around.
    • He tells his mother that Merry might not want to see any of them anymore.
    • Lou can't accept this. He says she's just a sixteen year old girl who needs help.
    • The Swede reminds him that Merry is twenty one.
    • He thinks that it would be worse for them to see her the way he had seen her than never to see her at all.
    • They talk about Merry for a little while longer.
    • Looking at his mother, who has gotten tiny, he realizes how much Merry's disappearance has hurt her.
    • (Flashback.)
    • When she arrives at the Swede's house the week before, she's upset about a letter with money that Lou wants her to mail to Jerry's latest, soon-to-be second ex-wife.
    • Lou already sent her money once; the woman told Jerry and Jerry flipped out, nearly giving Lou a heart attack.
    • Sylvia doesn't want the same thing to happen again; she's afraid it will kill Lou.
    • Jerry was always so angry, she tells him.
    • She talks about the time Jerry made a hamster-skin coat.
    • The Swede advises her to just mail the letter and not get involved.
    • She says that the Swede is the only one she can turn to, the only one who has any sense.
    • (End Flashback)
    • Now the topic switches to Dawn's face lift.
    • Lou says the surgeon did a great job of taking the grief from her face.
    • Sylvia says it couldn't get rid of the pain inside.
    • Lou starts talking about Richard Nixon, the same way Merry talked about Johnson.
    • Soon Lou gets really loud and Dawn comes running in to see if something is wrong.
    • Suddenly, they are all four crying together and they seem to the Swede more destroyed than ever.
    • All it took was for him to slip and say "'Merry's […] tomatoes' instead of "Dawn's' for them to sense that something […] awful has happened" (7.117).
    • On top of Lou and Sylvia, there are six dinner guests. The architect, Bill Orcutt, and his wife, Jessie, show up first. They live down the road from the Swede and Dawn.
    • The Orcutt family has been in the area forever and has in it many prominent lawyers, judges, and other politicians.
    • (Flashback.)

    • When the Levovs first move into the area, when Merry is still a baby, Orcutt offers to give them a tour of the town.
    • Dawn doesn't like him, the way he acts like he owns the whole area. She thinks he's looking down on them.
    • But the Swede thinks Orcutt's okay and goes with him for the tour.
    • The tour lasts all day. The first Orcutt came to the area in the 1770s (a hundred years before Lou Levov's father comes to America.)
    • The first Orcutt was from Ireland (like Dawn's family).
    • Lou had pressured the Swede to buy a house in the suburbs instead of the old house in the country. But the old house is what the Swede wants.
    • It makes him feel free and very American.
    • It's a huge old house on a hundred acres of land, expensive.
    • Lou doesn't understand why the Swede would want it.
    • Plus, he tells the Swede that this is Ku Klux Klan country, white racist America, not a good place for Jews.
    • Much better to get a place in the suburbs with nice Jewish people around him.
    • Nothing Lou says makes the Swede change his mind about the house.
    • He's experienced anti-Semitism and prejudice, but Dawn and Lou have it wrong.
    • They'll blend in just fine out here.
    • Orcutt isn't really in their life after the tour, so he doesn't really have to defend him to Dawn.
    • They never really got social.
    • Once the Swede does go to Orcutt's for a Saturday game of touch football.
    • A guy named Bucky Robinson is at the game, a Jewish guy from the Swede's old neighborhood.
    • He tries to get the Swede to attend the Morristown synagogue every time he sees him.
    • This gets under the Swede's skin in the same way it did when his mother wanted Dawn to convert to Judaism when Merry was born.
    • He tells her he doesn't even care about "practicing Judaism" (7.142)—why would he ask Dawn to convert?
    • Dawn tells him that Bucky Robinson isn't trying to get the Swede to think about God, just trying to make friends.
    • Well, he tells her, he just isn't interested.
    • What he's interested in is the Rimrock house, their "piece of America" (7.143).
    • He would never tell anybody, but being out here and having this house is like being Johnny Appleseed.
    • Johnny Appleseed, the Swede thinks, "Wasn't a Jew, wasn't an Irish Catholic, wasn't a Protestant Christian—nope, Johnny Appleseed was a just a happy American" (7.145). Not too smart. Loves walking. Walks around throwing his seeds everywhere.
    • The Swede has always loved the story, and Merry loves it too.
    • She wants to know who "told him to" (7.145) throw the seeds.
    • At night, she begs the Swede to tell it to her.
    • He tells her that Johnny decides to plant apple seeds on his own; nobody told him to.
    • When she asks if Johnny has a wife and kid, he says his wife is Dawn Appleseed, and his kid is Merry Appleseed.
    • Merry Appleseed throws apple seeds, too, and they grow into big apple trees.
    • On weekends, the Swede puts on his boots and walks the five miles into Rimrock, loving every minute of it.
    • When he gets into town he has coffee at Hamlin's store and buys the paper.
    • At the back of the store is a little post office window and rows of post office boxes.
    • Across the street is a six-room schoolhouse. This is will be Merry's first school.
    • Kids are sitting on the steps of the store. It seems so perfect for the Swede.
    • He buys milk and whatever else they need and then walks the five miles back.
    • As he walks back, he pretends he's throwing apple seeds.
    • Once Dawn sees him from the upstairs window.
    • When he comes in looking all handsome, she teases him, asking if he's been taking ballet in town.
    • Other than two prostitutes when he was a Marine, the Swede didn't have sex with the girls he'd dated.
    • His passion all comes out with Dawn.
    • Dawn tells him that she likes feeling like she's "sleeping next to an enormous rock" (7.147).
    • After they have sex, she usually cries.
    • He isn't sure why.
    • When he asks she says it's not because he's hurting her, but because it triggers strong emotions.
    • They have a really great sex life.
    • It's great for years.
    • Until the bomb and Dawn's hospitalizations.
    • After Dawn leaves the hospital, there's less and less sex.
    • (End flashback)
    • Orcutt's grandfather was a partner in a prestigious law firm. Orcutt's wife is the granddaughter of one of the other partners.
    • Orcutt was supposed to be a lawyer. But when he graduates from Princeton, he becomes an artist instead of going to Harvard to study law.
    • He's not very successful.
    • After three years, he marries Jessie and goes back to college to study architecture.
    • He still paints and has exhibits every few years.
    • (Flashback)
    • The Levovs are always invited, and they always attend.
    • The Swede finds it really uncomfortable to look at Orcutt's art.
    • Most of the pictures look like "nothing" (7.148).
    • Dawn thinks they are "thought provoking" (7.148), but the Swede can't see it. The paintings are like blurs, without visible shapes or figures.
    • When one of those pictures of nothing is suddenly up on the wall in the Levov living room, about a month after Dawn's face lift, "things [get] a little sad for the Swede" (7.149).
    • The painting is of brown streaks.
    • Dawn thinks it's really something, and she buys it for five thousand dollars.
    • She puts the painting up where a beautiful portrait of Merry at six used to be.
    • Lou thinks Orcutt's painting looks like "it ain't finished" (7.151).
    • The Swede defends Dawn's choice and later explains to his father that it doesn't really matter how bad the picture is as long as it makes Dawn happy.
    • (End flashback.)
    • This is the Orcutt who's designing their new house.
    • After dinner, he's going to show everybody the model, which is out in his van.
    • Dawn has all kinds of blueprints and designs in her study, too.
    • The Orcutts had come over early to solve the problem of how to link the house to the garage.
    • Orcutt had been away, and Dawn wants it handled immediately.
    • Sometimes Dawn thinks his ideas are snobbish, but they always come up with a solution she likes.
    • Orcutt brings the model in from the van and some tile samples.
    • He goes into the kitchen to show it to Dawn.
    • He's still in there talking to her about the house while she cooks and shucks the corn the Orcutts brought along for the dinner.
    • The Orcutts have five kids, all away at college now.
    • When they left, Jessie Orcutt started drinking and has been drinking heavily ever since.
    • She used to be pretty and fresh, but now, at fifty four, she's "a haggard old woman" (7.157) who stays at home most of the time drinking.
    • Jessie is drunk and talking to Lou Levov.
    • He's talking to her condescendingly, asking questions that keep her rambling on uncomfortably about horses from her childhood.
    • At one point, Lou takes her hand and holds it.
    • She continues talking about horses, growing sad at a memory of going to school away from her family when she was thirteen.
    • She's crying on his shoulder.
    • This makes Swede almost cry about a memory of Merry when she was six.
    • Instead, he decides to go find Orcutt so he can tell him Jessie is having problems.
    • He goes around to the back door of the kitchen.
    • Orcutt has on a Hawaiian shirt and "raspberry-colored linen pants" (7.180).
    • None of the flashiness of his clothes goes into his painting, that's for sure.
    • The Swede can see this through the glass at the top of the door.
    • He doesn't know why he's looking through the glass, why he didn't just go through.
    • It looks like Orcutt is showing Dawn how to shuck corn, or helping her shuck corn.
    • She's leaned over the sink, and Orcutt is leaning over her.
    • Aha! The Swede realizes. This is why Dawn is always saying bad things about Orcutt.
    • To keep him from being suspicious of their affair!
    • Now, he understands why Jessie Orcutt drinks.
    • He turns from the scene and goes back out to the terrace.
  • Part 3, Chapter 8

    • It's dinnertime, and it's getting dark really slowly. It seems to him that the evening will never end.
    • Like he's crawled into it to die.
    • They are on the terrace.
    • Marcia and Barry Umanoff, and Sheila and Shelly Salzman are also at the dinner.
    • Sheila was Merry's speech therapist.
    • On this same day, just hours ago, the Swede learns from Merry that Sheila had hidden her for two days after the bombing.
    • The Salzmans have never breathed a word of this to the Swede.
    • How different everything could be if they had only called him when she arrived at their place.
    • But he can't see quite exactly how things would have been different.
    • He sits there paralyzed at dinner, trying not to think of Merry.
    • And trying not to think of Dawn.
    • But these are the only things he can think about.
    • And he'll have to do this forever; stay here at dinner trying not to think about those things.
    • "Otherwise the world would explode" (8.1).
    • Barry Umanoff was in high school with the Swede, and he's the Swede's closest friend from those days.
    • Barry teaches law at Columbia University and is the son of a Jewish tailor.
    • Lou loves Barry and whenever he and Sylvia are in from Florida, Barry and Marcia come to dinner.
    • When Merry had begun spending time in New York, she'd stayed with the Umanoffs a few times.
    • (Flashback alert!)
    • After the bombing, the Swede goes to Barry for legal advice.
    • Barry takes him to Schevitz, another lawyer.
    • Schevitz says that the worst thing that could happen to Merry is seven to ten years in jail.
    • But, he tells the Swede, they don't even know if Merry is guilty, or if she acted alone.
    • Maybe it was an accident.
    • She could get a lighter sentence if it was done "in the passion of the antiwar movement" (8.3).
    • They don't know anything. They don't have any details.
    • If they treat Merry as a juvenile, the worst she could get is about three years in jail.
    • That talk with Schevitz used to give the Swede some hope, but now he's heard the truth from Merry herself.
    • Marcia Umanoff is "a militant nonconformist," and she knows just how to make the people around her feel uncomfortable.
    • She teaches literature in New York.
    • A big woman, messy, not that attractive, very outspoken.
    • Barry loves her.
    • The Swede could understand all of this if Merry was the daughter of Marcia.
    • Marcia who has been in jail several times for protesting the war.
    • It's hard to understand how Barry married her.
    • She's an intellectual who likes to act superior and antagonize people.
    • The Swede tolerates her, but Dawn despises her; she knows Marcia doesn't like her because she was once Miss New Jersey.
    • Dawn had explained that she'd entered the pageant to win money to help pay for her brother's college education after her father had a heart attack.
    • But Marcia still makes fun of it.
    • Marcia doesn't hide her disdain for Dawn.
    • Dawn doesn't even want Marcia in the house, but the Swede says they can't invite Barry and not Marcia.
    • Dawn thinks Marcia was the one hiding Merry, the person who is helping her live underground.
    • The Swede doesn't ever buy that it was Marcia.
    • He was right; it wasn't Marcia.
    • It was Merry's pretty speech therapist, Sheila Salzman, the only mistress the Swede has had.
    • They had an affair for the first four months after Merry disappeared.
    • Dinner conversation centers around Watergate and Deep Throat, an X rated movie that was very controversial at the time.
    • Lou keeps getting on the topic of gloves, too, and Sylvia tries to stop him. Lou is still sitting next to Jessie Orcutt but he's mostly talking to Bill.
    • Bill doesn't think there's anything wrong with X-rated movies.
    • Lou says that kids are going to see those movies.
    • Shelly Salzman, husband of Sheila, says that he thinks it's "adolescents" (8.46), not kids.
    • The Swede can't believe Salzman helped hide his daughter from him, and from the FBI; Shelly is always so nice.
    • Shelly is the person the Swede went to when Dawn wanted the face lift.
    • He'd advised the Swede to do it if that's what Dawn wanted and had told him the doctor in Switzerland was safe.
    • This was after the Swede's affair with Sheila, and the Swede had had an urge to confess.
    • Shelly is telling Lou that it doesn't really matter if he, Shelly, approves of Deep Throat.
    • Sylvia tells Lou to stop "monopolizing the conversation" (8.54), and then Dawn and Marcia start fighting a bit, and Dawn walks out.
    • Marcia is on one side of Lou, and Jessie is on the other.
    • Lou has moved Jessie's drink to where she can't reach it and is trying to make her eat.
    • The Swede is thinking about Sheila.
    • He just can't understand how she kept it from him.
    • Is everybody as easily fooled as he is?
    • He thinks Sheila's an "icy bitch" (8.70).
    • Suddenly, he's asking Lou if he wants more steak.
    • Lou does want steak, so he can try to make Jessie eat it.
    • Then the Swede's trying to help his father see that Shelly just doesn't take Deep Throat very seriously.
    • With all that's happened today, he can't believe he's playing the middle man between his father and Shelly.
    • Marcia is making fun of Lou's concern.
    • Orcutt takes Lou's side, saying, "And what is wrong with decency?" (8.82).
    • Not able to look at Orcutt, the Swede wonders what it is Dawn finds attractive in him.
    • Now, he can't stop thinking of Merry being raped and of Dawn having sex with Orcutt.
    • The argument about Deep Throat and decency is still going on.
    • Marcia and Dawn are antagonizing each other. Marcia is antagonizing Lou.
    • Orcutt is talking about "morality" (8.135)—Orcutt, the guy who puts the finishing touches on destroying the Swede's family.
    • Now, the Swede understands that the face lift was for Orcutt.
    • The new house is for Dawn and Orcutt to live in, together, abandoning the Swede and Jessie.
    • The Swede thinks that Dawn and Orcutt are "predators" (8.139).
  • Part 3, Chapter 9

    • The Swede gets a phone call.
    • One of the local girls hired to help Dawn tells him quietly, "It's from I think Czechoslovakia" (9.2).
    • He takes the call in Dawn's study. In it, he finds Orcutt's model of the new house. He must have put it in her before he went to "help [Dawn] shuck the corn" (9.2).
    • Rita Cohen is on the phone. She knows about Czechoslovakia. She and her people have been following him.
    • They'd followed him to the hotel room where Merry had told him she didn't know any Rita Cohen.
    • Rita ask him why he's "doing this" (9.3) to Merry.
    • She accuses the Swede of telling Merry that he never had sex with Rita.
    • He says he never mentioned this to Merry.
    • The Swede is looking at the model of the house while Rita talks.
    • He lifts up the roof and sees all the miniature furniture and appliances Orcutt's put in the house, models of the actual furniture and appliances that will go in the actual house.
    • The Swede thinks Orcutt is much better at designing houses than painting.
    • He thinks, "The only thing missing from the bedroom" are cardboard cutouts (9.9) of Orcutt and Dawn having sex.
    • That would have been fun for the Swede to find while listening to the angry ramblings of Rita Cohen.
    • The Swede can't figure out how Merry "who will not even do harm to water" (9.10) could be involved with Rita and people like her.
    • Maybe, Rita and her gang are following Merry, too, and she doesn't even know it.
    • Or maybe Merry lied to him today when she said she didn't know Rita.
    • In that case, maybe she'd lied about Sheila too.
    • And if that's the case, "he and Sheila could run off together to Puerto Rico" (9.13).
    • If it kills Lou Levov, "well, they'd just have to bury him" (9.14).
    • (Flashback)
    • When the Swede is seven, his grandfather, Lou's father, dies with Lou and his brothers at his hospital bedside.
    • It's about seven thirty in the morning when Lou gets home.
    • The Swede watches from behind the curtains as Lou sits on the front steps.
    • He's still, with his face in his hands.
    • Even when Sylvia comes to him, he doesn't move.
    • It takes all his strength to hold back the tears.
    • He sits like this for more than an hour.
    • Then he gets up and goes to work.
    • (End flashback)
    • He wonders if Rita and Merry are lovers. If Merry really is the leader of some plot to torture him.
    • No—it must be like Merry said, "Rita Cohen does not exist" (9.16).
    • If she doesn't exist, he doesn't have to listen to the things she's saying.
    • She's afraid the Swede is going to bring Merry back to his way of life.
    • She's saying Merry is a saint, and she can't believe the Swede is going to take her from Rita.
    • She seems to know that he threw up in Merry's room.
    • He hangs up the phone.
    • Again, he thinks about running away with Sheila and about dealing with his father's death from the shock.
    • Nothing makes sense at all anymore.
    • He drops the fantasy and begins regretting hanging up on Rita.
    • She'll punish him for it.
    • All he knows is that Rita Cohen, now a twenty-seven year old woman, is still out to get him, still hates him.
    • Now that Rita is back again he's sure something horrible will happen.
    • Sheila Salzman walks into the room and asks if he's okay.
    • She says she thought he looked sick earlier and that he really looks sick now.
    • The Swede is looking at Dawn's desk.
    • The pictures of Count (the ten thousand dollar bull) are still on the desk, but the picture of Merry is gone.
    • When Sheila points at the model and asks if it's "the new house" (9.30), the Swede calls her a "bitch" (9.31).
    • She just looks at him.
    • He tells her to go away, but grabs her arm when she tries to.
    • He confronts her about hiding Merry.
    • She admits it, but says she didn't know about the bombing until she'd already made promises to Merry.
    • She was also afraid that if she contacted the Swede the authorities would find Merry.
    • She says Merry sounded so angry and hateful toward the Swede, she was afraid something had happened to her at home.
    • When she'd had the affair with the Swede, she'd realized he couldn't have hurt Merry.
    • She and the Swede argue about this for a while.
    • The Swede accuses her, and she defends hiding Merry.
    • She tells the Swede not to blame her for what's happened. She saw that something had gone wrong with Merry at home, and she didn't think sending her back home would help her.
    • He says everything could have been different if Sheila had called him. He could have protected Merry.
    • When the Swede tells her that Merry killed three more people, she accuses him of saying things just to hurt her.
    • Now, there's nothing anyone can do to help Merry.
    • The Swede goes back to the dinner party.
    • Orcutt is talking to the Umanoffs.
    • Sylvia is next to Dawn, and they are talking to the Salzmans.
    • Jessie and Lou are missing.
    • He asks Dawn where Lou is and expects her to tell him Lou is dead.
    • But she doesn't know.
    • Sylvia says he's somewhere with Jessie.
    • Bill Orcutt comes up to the Swede.
    • The Swede fantasizes about smashing his head against the stones of the terrace floor.
    • Orcutt is telling the Swede how nice it is that Lou is giving Jessie attention.
    • Apparently, Lou has taken Jessie to the kitchen for pie and milk.
    • Orcutt has a gross mole on his face.
    • How can Dawn like him?
    • The Swede tells Orcutt he's seen the model of the new house.
    • Orcutt asks if he understands the model.
    • He says he does understand. He says, "I think you're going to be very happy in it" (9.134).
    • Orcutt chuckles and corrects the Swede.
    • But the Swede doesn't even know what he said.
    • He suddenly realizes he should have taken Merry from the room in Newark, like Jerry said.
    • If Rita touches Merry, the Swede will murder her.
    • He tells himself to "Calm down" (9.137).
    • If he takes Sheila to Merry, Sheila will be able to help her.
    • Dawn won't be able to help her, that's for sure.
    • Dawn is done.
    • Jerry's words echo in his head. He has to go back there.
    • But what will Lou think when he sees her with that veil.
    • Lou can't see that.
    • Maybe he and Merry can go live in Puerto Rico.
    • Forget about everyone else.
    • Just go back there and save Merry from that place.
    • The Swede can't really imagine life, "After Dawn" (9.141).
    • She doesn't want him; she wants Orcutt, "Mr. America" (9.141).
    • He holds Dawn's hand like a man who has "no information about the condition of his life" (9.142).
    • Dawn, he thinks, does want the Swede, but the memories are too hard for her.
    • She can't face the fact that "she gave birth to a murderer" (9.143).
    • Lou told him not to marry Dawn; he should have listened.
    • Lou objects to Dawn because she isn't Jewish.
    • The Swede couldn't tell his father that he wants to marry her because she's beautiful.
    • He's only twenty-three (in 1950, twenty two years ago). He tells Lou he's "in love with her" (9.145).
    • Lou is worried because they won't know whether to bring their kids up Catholic or Jewish.
    • And Lou was right. It was a mistake. They got a Jain.
    • The Swede has always been "most serious" about trying to keep his loved ones from "suffering" (9.146).
    • To try to please Lou, the Swede arranges for Dawn to meet with his father to discuss religion before they are married.
    • (Flashback.)
    • He tells Dawn to tone down any descriptions of her parent's Catholicism.
    • Best not to mention the rosary beads, crosses, religious statues, and pictures.
    • Keep references to Jesus to a minimum and don't talk about heaven.
    • Lou was brought up strictly Jewish and won't understand.
    • He tells Dawn not to talk about Jews either.
    • The Swede will always remember the conversation between Dawn and Lou, because Dawn is so brave and is pretty honest with Lou.
    • Dawn is a little over five feet tall, and the Swede doesn't realize her strength until he sees her with his father.
    • Dawn and Lou negotiate the child's religion for three hours.
    • Dawn gets a Catholic Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and some of Easter.
    • Lou gets her to promise not to have the child baptized, but she does anyway.
    • When Merry is six, Lou finds the baptismal certificate.
    • He loves Merry too much by then for it to really matter.
    • Lou still thinks the baptism is to blame for some of Merry's problems.
    • As a baby, Merry cries angrily all the time.
    • Lou doesn't go so far as to blame that on the baptism.
    • The Swede and Dawn take her to the doctor, had tests taken, tried everything, but nothing would keep Merry from screaming anytime, anywhere.
    • Dawn is about to go insane from it.
    • When Merry is about a year and half, the screaming stops.
    • Things are great until she starts stuttering.
    • Now, the Swede remembers the beginning of the conversation between Dawn and Lou.
    • (The conversation goes on for several pages. We'll quote a few lines so you can see the format. You should read it. It's pretty outrageous.)
    • Lou—DO YOU WEAR A CROSS AROUND YOUR NECK, MARY DAWN?
    • Dawn—I have. In high school I did for a while. […]
    • […]
    • Lou—ANY CROSSES IN YOUR HOUSE? HANGING UP?
    • Dawn—Only one. (9.158-62)
    • He wants to know how she feels about Jesus, and if her parents say bad things about Jews.
    • She says one of her cousins married a Jew. It wasn't a problem for the family
    • She was an older woman so the family was glad she was married.
    • Lou says, "SHE WAS SO OLD EVEN A JEW WOULD DO. HOW OLD WAS SHE, A HUNDRED?" (9.223).
    • Dawn says she was only thirty and that the issue of Catholics marrying Jews isn't that big of a deal with her family.
    • Lou thinks it is a big deal, because you have to decide how to raise the children.
    • They negotiate over which Catholic traditions will be observed, and which Jewish ones (as the Swede has already told us).
    • Dawn wants to wait until the child is born to decide these things, but Lou thinks it has to be decided now.
    • He tells Dawn he doesn't think this will work out and that she can leave.
    • She tells him she's not going anywhere because she loves the Swede.
    • And the negotiations continue. The deal is made. The Swede and Dawn get married.
    • Until the death of Dawn's father in 1959 the Levovs and the Dwyers have Thanksgiving dinner together every year.
    • Lou Levov could talk about Newark, and Jim Dwyer could talk about Elizabeth. It was a perfect match.
    • Dorothy Dwyer and Sylvia Levov don't get along quite as well, mostly because all Dorothy wants to talk about is Catholicism.
    • (End flashback. We are still at the dinner party.)
    • Dawn is telling Sheila and Shelly Salzman about a trip to see Simmentals (beef cattle) in Switzerland.
    • Dawn is describing the trip through Europe, but editing Merry out of all the scenes as if she doesn't remember that she was there, too.
    • The Swede remembers the trip very well. Merry at six was still his precious daughter.
    • He thinks of pictures of Dawn at the Miss America Pageant in New Jersey.
    • Dawn is more beautiful than the other five Miss New Jerseys that come to the Swede and Dawn's wedding.
    • He remembers how Dawn's father thought the girls in the pageants are exploited and drooled over.
    • But one of Dawn's aunts had talked him into coming to the pageant.
    • He can't understand it when Dawn's chaperone only lets him shake her hand, and he remembers feeling insulted for years to come.
    • Sheila has to be "pretending" to listen to Dawn go on about the trip to Europe.
    • She can't have just forgotten the conversation in the study.
    • Still, the Swede's impression of her was so wrong, just like his impression of his wife and daughter had been wrong.
    • Why can't he ever figure anybody out?
    • Shelly Salzman really is listening, under the sway of Dawn's beauty.
    • Sheila looks really plain next to Dawn.
    • Dawn is "hearty" (9.328) and Sheila is not.
    • He'd only been attracted to Sheila because she was "someone else" (9.328).
    • It wasn't passionate.
    • Sheila never could have stood up to Lou the way Dawn did.
    • He really wants Dawn back, the old, strong Dawn.
    • In his head, he replays telling Sheila about Merry's other three murders.
    • Dawn is telling them about the beautiful pictures of cows the Swede had taken in Switzerland.
    • The Swede thinks that when Sheila gets in the car she'll tell Shelly about Merry, and then Shelly will call the police and tell them where Merry is.
    • Maybe he can take Shelly to the side and explain things to him.
    • It isn't really Merry's fault. She's no longer violent.
    • It was because of the war.
    • He'll admit Merry is guilty and ask Shelly to let the Swede handle things.
    • The police already know, he thinks.
    • Jerry must have called them.
    • Now, Merry will be caught and it will be his fault, his fault because he told Jerry and Sheila about the other murders.
    • That was his bomb.
    • He's made it all worse.
    • But there was no way he could keep it inside, not today!
    • Suddenly he hears Lou Levov screaming, "No!"
    • The Swede thinks that Merry is here, that Lou has seen her in her veil.
    • She's walked all the way here "in her rags and sandals" (9.346).
    • All evening, the Swede has been afraid of Merry walking to Rimrock.
    • She's come here to confess to Lou about the four murders.
    • She tells him and he has a heart attack and dies.
    • When the Swede goes into the kitchen he sees blood on his father's face.
    • Jessie Orcutt is sitting at the table. A pie plate is on the table, and Jessie is holding a bloody fork.
    • When Jessie wouldn't eat the pie, the girls in the kitchen explain, Lou tried to feed her.
    • She takes the fork from him, telling him she'll feed herself, and then stabs him in the face with it.
    • Marcia says, "One drink less […] and you'd be blind Lou" (9.423).
    • Then she starts to laugh.
    • Something has gone wrong in Rimrock, and it can never be like it was.
    • The novel ends with two questions:
    • "And what is wrong with their life? What on earth is less reprehensible than the life of the Levovs?" (9.356).
    • (Check out "What's Up with the Ending?" for discussion of the questions and more.)