After church, Grace and her sisters ask if they can see the trains. Mr. Smeath obliges, and they go to see the street car. Elaine notes that Mr. Smeath wanted to see the trains more than Grace or her sisters. Elaine now believes her parents have kept things from her, like God and psalms, that she was supposed to know. As she goes to bed, the stars outside her window look watchful instead of remote. 

Summary: Chapter 19

At school, the girls and the boys play separately, but, as Elaine observes, while the boys actively exclude the girls, the girls’ exclusion of the boys remains unspoken. Elaine begins to notice the way the boys’ behavior differs from the girls’. The boys yell, wear drab clothes, and point out messy bodily functions. 

Stephen says he has a girlfriend whom he keeps secret from everyone—including the girl herself—except for Elaine. Elaine believes this girlfriend has turned Stephen into a stupider version of himself. Soon, Stephen’s interest in the girlfriend wanes, and he moves on to chemistry. After his chemistry obsession stops, Stephen becomes fascinated with astronomy. He shares the names of the stars and constellations with Elaine. Unlike the stars in the Bible, the stars Stephen tells her about are vast and burn silently.

Summary: Chapter 20

Cordelia has started digging holes in her backyard in an attempt to create one large enough to use as a clubhouse, but they keep caving in. One day, Cordelia, Grace, and Carol take Elaine, dressed as Mary Queen of Scotts, to the hole and place her inside. The girls cover the top of the hole with boards and dirt, trapping Elaine underground. Elaine had thought this was a game, but now realizes that it isn’t. 

Elaine cannot remember her ninth birthday party. She knows she must have had one and that this would have been her first real birthday party, but only can remember vague images. She now hates birthday parties. When she thinks of that birthday, she only can remember nightshade, which isn’t right, but evokes a feeling of grief. 

Analysis: Chapters 16–20

Elaine’s explosive response to Andrea’s questions hints at Elaine’s insecurities and demonstrates her general distrust of other women. Elaine’s reluctance for Andrea to place her into a rote narrative about women artists appears reasonable, but Elaine also lies in her responses to try to hide the ways the narrative applies to her. For example, she insists Ben supports her work, but not only is he not attending the retrospective, he treats it as something Elaine can skip, which suggests he doesn’t see her career as important. We also see Elaine’s desire not to be a “woman artist” in her insistence that she paints women simply because she’s a painter, ignoring that most famous painters in history have been men depicting idealized women. Therefore, she either paints women to fit in with other artists, or she paints women in order to portray women how she’d like to portray them. Finally, Elaine interprets any confusion Andrea expresses as Andrea secretly judging Elaine’s appearance, which Elaine has no actual reason to believe. Elaine doesn’t see Andrea as an individual, but as a woman out to get her, much like she refers to the teenage shoplifters as Cordelia.