The mother and daughter bond in the days leading up to Laurie's birth. The author reaffirms that the pain of childbirth is what connects all women to each other when the neighborhood women hear Katie's screams. Francie will enter this community of women one day. For now, Katie, preserving Francie's innocence, sends her daughter for food when the baby is delivered. When Francie sees her mother afterward, she comments that they were like strangers. The distance is the result of Francie's absence during this vicarious experience of suffering.
Chapter 41 makes use of the omniscent point of view by presenting the voices of an entire community of men. The snippets of conversation in McGarrity's provide a cross-section of the voices, opinions, and emotions of a localized group. Because no names are given, we hear only voices, as in a crowd scene. The narrator communicates the conventional wisdom surrounding political and technological issues, not individualized opinions. This technique also allows the author to give historical context to the novel, without upstaging the main characters. The chapter flashes by like a list of newspaper headlines, or radio clips, providing the political and social tenor of the time.
The imminence of war is an underlying fear throughout these chapters. It surfaces first in the conversation in the bar, then in the song the children sing at graduation, I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier. The principal alludes to it in his speech, and Katie thinks of it in terms of Neeley and the draft.
Francie's graduation provides her a chance to come to peace with Johnny's death. When she first sees her roses, she thinks that maybe Johnny's death was all a dream. When Sissy brings her back to reality, she has another opportunity to grieve not only for Johnny. The narrator explains that she cries not only for her father, but also because she is exhausted from worrying about Katie and for her disappointing end in her English class. These additional reasons still relate back to Johnny's death. Presumably, without his death, she would not have worried over her mother, and her stories would still be rose-tinted enough to please her teacher. Francie's hardness breaks all at once in her gust of tears. These hardships, however, signify that she is losing more of her innocence, and growing into a woman.
The preoccupation with money surfaces again at the ice cream parlor when everyone waits to see if Katie will leave a tip. Five cents is the custom, so Katie's action is extremely extravagant. Like throwing out a daily cup of coffee, leaving a huge tip makes Katie and her children feel richer, like they can waste something.