Study Guide

Belle Prater's Boy Compassion and Forgiveness

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Compassion and Forgiveness

"In the last month I have relived those days over and over again," Mama said. "And I have promised my sister in my heart that if I ever see her again, I will tell her how truly sorry I am that I caused her pain." (5.22)

Love and Belle haven't been close in the past decade, but Love would apologize for her actions and make up with her sister if she could. She doesn't want this rift to be between them forever.

"But Mama, if Daddy loved you best, that wasn't your fault. What were you supposed to do?" I said, trying to comfort her.

"I could have been kinder," Mama said." (5.23-24)

Even though Gypsy doesn't see how her mother could have done things differently, Love disagrees. She didn't mean to hurt Belle by falling in love with Amos, but she could have been nicer about it. She could have been more understanding of Belle's pain.

"He's not my daddy!" I said in a low, evil voice. "And he never will be! I hate him!"

I saw a slow flush go over her face, and her lip began to tremble.

"You don't give him a chance," she said in a whisper. (11.69-71)

Gypsy has a hard time forgiving Porter for taking her father's place even though he's not doing it to be mean. She just doesn't want to accept him because it would mean accepting her father's death.

"It was Belle's choice," he was saying, "to go live the old-timey ways with Everett's clan. We went to see her, your granny and me, but she never made us feel welcome. Then she took to hiding from us when she saw us coming.

"'Tell them I died,' she'd say to Everett. Just being sassy, you know. But Everett would repeat to us what she said. And it hurt your granny's feelings so bad, she'd cry." (13.49-50)

Poor Granny and Grandpa. They love their daughter Belle so much, but she's basically rejecting her whole family because of what Love and Amos did to her. She doesn't want them in her life anymore, no matter how much they want to mend fences.

"After your daddy died, she started coming to visit once in a while, and your mama took you up there to play with Woodrow occasionally. I thought maybe Belle and Love would make up and be friends, like sisters should be, but it never happened." (13.53)

Belle never fully forgives Love, though the sisters start to see each other again occasionally. They never regain the closeness they used to have as kids because neither of them can let go of the past.

I left Woodrow alone for a while, went home to undo my pigtails and wash my hair, then searched him out. He was inside the tree house, cutting out personal ads from some old Sunday newspapers he had saved and placing the ads carefully inside my jewelry box, where we had commenced keeping our treasures.

"You sore at me, Woodrow?"

"Naw. I ain't sore." (14.1-3)

Woodrow can forgive and forget even when something is a big deal, like Grandpa and Gypsy speculating about Uncle Everett's involvement in Belle's disappearance. He can even forgive his mother for leaving him without a word. That's some impressive compassion this kid has.

So that was it! As a young girl Aunt Belle had embarrassed her in front of her boyfriend. And Mrs. Cooper had carried that anger with her all these years, so that now it was a bitter acid she was spraying on Woodrow in retaliation. (15.26)

Talk about a long-term grudge. Mrs. Cooper is still so mad about the mean things that Aunt Belle said about her when they were both girls that she's mean to Woodrow decades later. It's just our humble opinion, but we're thinking it's time to let bygones be bygones.

"I mean… what… what happened to the thirty dollars you saved? That's all I meant. Did you have to spend it on something else?"

"That's none of your business!" he sputtered.

There was more anger in his eyes than I had ever seen there before. (16.50-52)

Oh geez. Woodrow is obviously holding onto some pent-up rage about his mother's disappearance and the fact that she took the money they'd saved up for his eye operation. Hopefully he can forgive her for letting him down.

People were good enough not to keep reminding me. It was like a black hole we tiptoed around, being careful not to go too close to the edge, or to peep into it. Sometimes folks almost let it slip, and sometimes they said it in whispers behind my back. But as long as I didn't have to hear the hard, cruel words, I could go on tiptoeing around the edge of the black hole. (18.7)

The people in town try to show Gypsy compassion because of what happened to her father. The main way they do so is by never discussing his death around her, because they know how much it would hurt her to relive that day.

It was a moment, I reckon, when we both faced the truth. Aunt Belle had left Woodrow on purpose just like my daddy left me. Not because they didn't love us. They did. But their pain was bigger than their love.

You had to forgive them for that. (23.34-35)

Even though a parent leaving a child behind is one of the biggest betrayals Gypsy can think of, she and Woodrow learn to forgive Amos and Belle. After all, Amos and Belle are both loving parents. They just couldn't bear to stick around in a world that had damaged them so much.

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