Chapter five

Summary: Part 1

Back in the present, Hannah doesn’t know anything about her mother’s disappearance because she wasn’t alive at the time and her family never talks about the event. Looking to understand what happened to Lydia, Hannah sneaks out in the middle of the night, unbolting the new front door lock and walking to the lake. She plans to go out in the rowboat, but the town has removed it. Her father now spends his time at the office and her mother in Lydia’s room while Nathan walks around the house. In Lydia’s room, Hannah finds the necklace that James had given Lydia stashed under the bed, but Hannah doesn’t put it on because she promised her sister she wouldn’t. She then falls asleep on Lydia’s bed. The next morning, James and Marilyn argue about the unbolted door. Marilyn continues to believe that Lydia was abducted.

Summary: Part 2

The police arrive to update the Lees and suggest that Lydia, who seemed lonely, committed suicide. When the police question Nathan, he wants to mention Jack but starts crying instead. James and Marilyn continue to fight while Hannah hides, unnoticed, under the table. James departs, driving around the lake and thinking about his daughter’s possible suicide. He returns to Louisa’s to break things off but stays instead. Pacing Lydia’s room, Marilyn thinks about how eager Lydia was to please. She then finds cigarettes and condoms stashed in Lydia’s bookbag and wonders about what she doesn’t know. Downstairs, Hannah cleans up a teacup her mother has broken in anger. When Nathan sees Jack walking home from graduation, he wants to talk to him, but Hannah holds him back. Nathan then tells Hannah that Lydia once fell in the lake when she was little.

Analysis: Chapter five

A toxic combination of silence and miscommunication emerges in this chapter. As Hannah sneaks out to the lake, it is noted that everyone is awake, but they do not hear her leave the house. This is another example of everyone feeling the same emotions but being incapable of sharing them. The Lee family is so engulfed in oppressive silence that they are unable to reach out and talk to one another. The Lees have shut themselves away, through Marilyn's insistence on Lydia's overachievement and James's fear of other people's judgement. As a family, they have no other meaningful relationships, so they are forced into sharing a claustrophobic closeness. However, their closeness is meaningless as long as the Lees refuse to communicate or make any attempt to understand one another, and as time goes on, their commitment to silence drives them further apart. 

Marilyn’s inability to share her own truths has resulted in her inability to recognize the truth about her children. She cannot allow herself to believe that Lydia is anything other than what she has imagined her to be. The door that Hannah leaves unchained is, to Marilyn, a symbol of all the terrible things that could have happened to Lydia. She cannot comprehend that the door is a passageway that Lydia went through willingly, a door that Marilyn, with all her failed plans and her unfulfilled hopes, did not even know could be opened. Only when confronted with the evidence of cigarettes and condoms in Lydia's backpack does Marilyn allow some doubt to creep in about the idealized version of Lydia that she has built in her mind. Marilyn is determined to figure Lydia out, fearful that her inability to recognize and accept Lydia’s truth might have somehow contributed to the end of Lydia's life.