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"'You know what?' James asked. 'We're the kind that people go off from. First our father and now Momma. I never thought of that before. Whadda you think, Dicey? Is there something wrong about us?' 'I don't know and I don't care.'"
This quote occurs in Chapter 3 of Part One, on the children's third night of travel. James finds himself trying to make sense of what has happened to them, wondering what is wrong with them, and Dicey retorts that she does not care. This passage first of all demonstrates the child's attempts to come to grips with the fact of his abandonment. From a developmental perspective, a young person is much more likely than an adult to attribute the actions of others and events in the world to his or her own behavior. Accordingly, James, left in such a dire situation by his mother, whom he loves and with whom it is consequently difficult for him to find fault, reasons that he or something about him personally is the cause for her departure. This fear settles into the bones of the children, threatening to undermine them as they find that Eunice, though she is willing to take them in, does not really accept them, and as they float through the lives of so many different people. Secondly, the passage demonstrates the difference between James' and Dicey's approach to the implications of their mother's actions: James is logical and discerning, reasoning that since both their father and their mother left them, it is likely that the problem lies within them. Dicey, on the other hand, refuses even to contemplate such a proposition. She merely accepts the facts, clings without reflection or examination to her love for her mother, and focuses on survival.
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