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Rufus's dissatisfaction with the answers religious dogma provides is indicative of not only his own views, but also the views of Jay and much of Mary's own family. Aunt Hannah is the only one who shares Mary's religious faith; no one else can really understand it, and some are even somewhat repulsed by it. Rufus's questions find more faults with Mary's explanation than Mary can successfully account for to a child that does not have faith and is merely curious. Indeed, the novel as a whole does not lend religion any special authority; it merely presents religion as one of a number of potential coping strategies.

The fact that Ralph has such a bad alcohol problem is not surprising in light of the fact that the narrator has hinted that Jay enjoys drinking as well—alcoholism is partly an inherited disease. Ralph is one of the least likable characters in the novel, and in Chapter 6 his weakness and insecurity is more fully characterized than at any other point in the novel. While Ralph is standing by his sick father's bedside, he keeps thinking of excuses to leave so that he can have another swig from the bottle. It is painfully obvious to all present what he is doing; he knows this, but he is unable stop. The more Ralph drinks, the more self-critical he becomes, until at the end we understand that he feels he has no more power than a baby. Ralph is, both literally and figuratively, the baby of the family—Jay is not only older, but also a much stronger and more mature character.