Chapters Twenty-Three & Twenty-Four

Summary: Chapter Twenty-Three 

David catches Pollux peeping on Lucy outside her bathroom window, then thrashes him as Katy pounces on him. As David hits Pollux, he calls him a “filthy swine” and yells out racist slurs. After Lucy breaks up the fight, Pollux returns to Petrus’s while shouting, “We will kill you all!” When David asks Lucy why she would protect Pollux, she says he is disturbed and that she wants peace, but that David has disrupted that. Still, David is enraged and believes Pollux to be a problem and despite Lucy’s calls for calm, again considers that he is too old to change. 

Later, David visits the animal clinic to visit Bev, who advises him to stand back and let Lucy work out her own situation. David begins to volunteer again and buys a half-ton pickup to transfer dog corpses to the incinerator. He also rents a place in town to live, but mostly spends time at the clinic where he takes care of its animals and works on his opera. 

Summary: Chapter Twenty-Four

David’s work on his opera consumes him, though he now realizes it won’t come to fruition. At the clinic, David bonds with a badly disfigured young male dog and on Saturdays, helps Lucy at the farmers’ market. Lucy tells David she will learn to love her child and adds that she just wants to be a good mother and person. David should try to be a good person, too, Lucy says, but he tells her it’s too late for him. 

David takes a drive then walks a path to the farm where he sees Lucy amid blooming flower fields, yet unaware of his presence. He sees how his daughter, who was once the size of a tadpole in her mother’s body, is now a full-grown woman and pregnant herself. David contemplates how life will go on, even after he is gone. David realizes that he’ll be a grandfather soon and will enter a new stage and era and wonders if it’s truly too late for him to change. Eventually, David makes his presence known to Lucy, who invites him inside the farmhouse for the first time since his altercation with Pollux.

Back at clinic, David and Bev continue to put down unwanted dogs, now in silence as David focuses his attention on providing love for the dogs during the process. David considers giving the disabled dog he bonded with another week to live but opts instead to euthanize him. 

Analysis: Chapters Twenty-Three & Twenty-Four

As David thrashes Pollux, his anger over recent events finally boils over. His anger is understandable, given Lucy’s rape and that one of its perpetrators is now peeping on her in the bathroom. But the event also releases his long-standing, racist sentiments that have been seething throughout his life. David calls Pollux a “swine” while delivering an intense thrashing that’s meant to teach him a lesson, which recalls South Africa’s past of colonialism and Apartheid. More of the country’s racially charged tensions between white and Black people spill over when Pollux screams back, “We will kill you all!” That Lucy breaks up the fight and saves Pollux is significant. Despite being a victim of violence herself, including at Pollux’s hand, Lucy tells David that she only wants peace. She even makes an attempt to wash Pollux’s wounds, a sign of wanting to wash away sins of the past and start clean. David thinks of the old days but Lucy has no interest in going backward, only forward. 

David’s confrontation with Pollux provides yet another example of his resistance to change and his refusal to regret. He is too old to change, he continues to tell himself, and would hurt Pollux again. This sentiment is reinforced later when he tells Lucy it is too late for him to be a good person. Still, for the reader who still possesses any patience for David, there is reason for hope. When David watches Lucy among her flowers and realizes he’s aging and will soon be a grandfather, he becomes keenly aware that the virtues required of that position, namely equanimity, kindliness, and patience, may in fact “come as other virtues go.” It’s an encouraging sign, at least, as is his ensuing, and seemingly sincere, question of whether he can “educate the eye” to see anything “except pretty girls.” 

When David decides to euthanize the dog that he’s bonded with, it may be that he loses the compassion he gained throughout his journey and, sensing there’s no real chance of changing his life, resolves to live in a permanent state of disgrace. This interpretation is certainly justifiable given his past actions, recent events, and continued resistance to change. It could also be, though, that David’s act is one of kindness and mercy, that he’s saving the animal from living in his own state of disgrace and allowing him to die at the hands of people who care, as Bev stated in Chapter Ten. Another interpretation: David is finally accepting his own fate. Until now, David has feared and fought against mid-life and what he feels lies on the other side: a diminishment of desire and winding down, ultimately, toward death. Despite all his flaws, though, David has also shown that he can change. While contemplating Lucy’s pregnancy, he comes to accept that she’s an adult, that he is aging, and that life is moving forward, and will continue to do so after he’s gone. When David says, “I am giving him up,” then, he may not only be speaking about helping the dog transition peacefully, but also about giving up his younger self and accepting his own transition into the later seasons of his life.