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Dicey's Song

Cynthia Voigt

Chapter 8

Chapter 7

Chapter 9

Summary

Mina and Dicey walk through the halls together after school, enjoying their notoriety for having bested Mr. Chappelle. Out by the bike racks, even Jeff congratulates Dicey on her essay and her encounter with the unpopular teacher. Mina walks Dicey to Millie's, and as they walk, with the cars and trucks rushing past them, Mina, sparked by sudden inspiration, asks if the essay was about Dicey's mother. Dicey hesitates, but decides she should share her history with Mina, and confirms her friend's guess. At the grocery store, Sammy, who has been in a fight and has been consequently banished from the bus for a week, is waiting for her. Mina and Sammy go outside to play marbles, of which all of Sammy's peers have become interested.

Over supper, the entire family joins in the effort to determine why Sammy was fighting, but he resolutely refuses to share the reasons. He tries to distract them by reiterating how much he wants to learn to play marbles, and Gram eventually agrees to teach him how to play. The next day, Jeff comes into the store while Dicey is working, and she finds herself staring at his lean, handsome profile. He offers to drive her home, and Dicey accepts, suggesting that he play a song for Sammy while she finishes up. At home, Dicey finds another letter from Boston in the mailbox and discovers that Gram has brought good, sturdy winter coats down from the attic for each of them. The family busies itself with preparations for Thanksgiving.

The next day, the Tillerman children have their first Thanksgiving dinner, with Mr. Lingerle and Gram. Dicey finds herself longing for Momma and wonders if Gram is longing for her as well. After dinner, the family walks along the shore, and Dicey finds herself wondering about each of her family members. After work the next day, Mina meets Dicey and walks her part of the way home. Dicey absentmindedly watches a cardinal as Mina asks about her Thanksgiving and, again deciding to reach out, admits to Mina that in Provincetown they could never afford to celebrate Thanksgiving. Mina then turns the conversation to Sammy, and Dicey explains his history of fighting over Momma in Provincetown. Mina quickly guesses that Sammy is fighting about Gram, who has a reputation for eccentricity in the town. At home, Dicey suggests the possibility to Gram, and Gram reacts angrily.

On Saturday afternoon, Jeff appears in the doorway of the barn while Dicey is working on the boat. Though she is surprised into hostility at first, she eventually welcomes him. He sings a song, and they discuss the song's sad ending. Inside, Dicey introduces Jeff to her family and to James's friend, Toby, who is visiting as well. They sing a song and again find themselves discussing the lyrics. Later in the afternoon, Mina appears and joins in the singing. Dicey and Maybeth teach Jeff a song they learned from a friend during their travels during the previous summer, and Maybeth comments that Jeff reminds her of the friend. Jeff presses for more details, but quickly sees that Dicey will tell him nothing more.

Analysis

Dicey follows through on her decision at the end of Chapter 7 to begin reaching out. In Chapter 8, Mina learns more about Dicey than she has in the entire first seven chapters: she learns where Dicey works, she learns that the essay Dicey wrote was about her mother, she learns about Dicey's brothers and sister, she learns about Gram, and finally, she even visits the house and joins in a comfortable afternoon of singing. Dicey and Mina's first meaningful conversation, which takes place as the pair walks together to Millie's store, occurs alongside the road, as traffic is rumbling by them. The rushing traffic serves to emphasize the girls' focus on each other and their mutual disregard for conventions. While the world around them bustles, tending to its own priorities, the two girls shut this world out, focusing instead on trying to understand and reach out to the other.

Though Dicey's decision to reach out is sudden, both Jeff and Mina become part of Dicey's life incrementally in the space of the chapter, with their physical proximity to Dicey's home symbolizing the steps of this progression. First, Mina walks Dicey from school to work. Then, the day after Thanksgiving, she walks Dicey partway home from work. Only then, on the following day, does she accept Dicey's invitation and come all the way to the house, joining in the children's afternoon of singing. Similarly, Jeff, after their many early encounters by the bike racks, sees Dicey at work two times, then drives her home, then appears in the barn as she is working, and then enters into her home itself. Both of these friends become emotionally closer to Dicey as they draw physically closer to her home itself. For Dicey, friendships translate into and grow from the ability to share her family and her past with people.

Though the Tillerman children celebrate their first Thanksgiving that Thursday, with a table heavy with food, they celebrate a second Thanksgiving the following Saturday, when the house overflows with their friends. The Tillerman children's friends do not show up one by one, but all on the same day, which accentuates the way in which these friends represent a sort of emotional bounty. The food of this second Thanksgiving is music, as the children gather around not only to sing but also to discuss the meaning of lyrics and past associations with songs. Voigt repeatedly uses music as a symbol for the act of reaching out to others, and thus we see that the wealth the children experience in the form of their friends exists in the act of sharing themselves with each other.

At the same time, Voigt makes Dicey's decision to reach out more realistic by demonstrating the ways in which she still maintains her old prickly emotional patterns and the ways in which she decides to guard parts of her past. For example, Dicey initially snaps at Jeff, shocked that he has appeared so unexpectedly in the barn. Although he and Mina ask about a person from her past, Dicey decides she is not yet ready to share the story of the Tillerman children's difficult journey from Massachusetts to Crisfield. While Dicey is beginning to understand the importance of reaching out, she knows there are parts of herself and her past that she herself is not ready to examine or share.

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