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James meets with the facility’s attorney, his parents,
and Daniel. James learns that the charges in Michigan and North
Carolina are minimal and that he’ll only have to pay a fine. In
Ohio, the charges are more serious, and James is facing three years
in state prison. James says he won’t go to trial, because he is
guilty of all the charges against him. James hugs his mother for
the first time in his life. They separate, and he goes to lunch.
He remembers last night’s conversation with Lilly, in which he told
her he’d be willing to move to Chicago to be near her. James has
lunch with his friends, who offer words of encouragement. James
notices Bobby sitting with the man who is familiar to James, but
whom he cannot place.
James goes back to meet with his parents. He tells them
a little about his friends and about Lilly, whom he says he loves.
His father says to tell Lilly they said hello. At another meeting
with other addicts and family members, but not his own, James learns
the conventional knowledge that addiction is a genetic disease and
that it is incurable. He doesn’t believe it, choosing instead to
label it a decision. Back at the unit the Bald Man is graduating.
He cries again, but this time he gets a standing ovation. James
goes to call his brother and some friends. One of his friends has
been drinking. He calls three of his friends who are also friends
with the Girl with the Arctic Eyes. Back in the dining hall, James
spots Lilly, who stares at him angrily and looks like she’s been
crying. He tries to find out why by gesturing at her, but she doesn’t
He goes to dinner. Ed is leaving the next day. He is eager
to see his four sons. James goes back for another family meeting,
in which he tells his parents about the Fury, noting that it seems
to get worse whenever he’s around them. His mother and father reveal
that James’s grandfather was an alcoholic and that James had a horrible ear
infection when he was a baby that went unnoticed and unchecked until
he was two. He had to have operations until he was twelve to fix
the problem. James refuses to blame his current condition on his
past and says that he must take responsibility for what he does
and what he’s become. They part with a hug and James goes back to
James and his parents reach several milestones in this
section, but probably the most important is James’s willingness
to initiate physical contact with them. He says he can feel the
Fury rising but quells it. James is learning that instant gratification
is perhaps not a part of the solution. He also feels a small sense
of joy when he initiates contact with his parents. He seems almost
surprised to discover that this act creates an immediate sense of
family. The entire time he was looking for something, it was right
there all along. All he had to do was give in a little and accept
some help from those who were closest to him. Another important
step is James’s decision not to hide his friends and his girlfriend
from his parents. He makes a conscious effort to disclose everything
about his current life, telling them that his best friend is some
sort of mobster, that his other friends are crackheads and drunks,
and that his girlfriend is a pill-popper and former prostitute.
He finds that his parents are most concerned with whether his friends
are nice people and whether he loves his girlfriend. This knowledge
is refreshing, and it gives James the capability to be more honest
with them as time goes on and as they begin to mine the important
parts of his life.
When faced with the reality of state prison, James realizes
that there can be no more running. He is finally aware that he must
take responsibility for his actions. The disclosure that James’s
grandfather was an alcoholic and that his first two years were completely consumed
with a horrible ear infection (explaining why his first memories
are of anger and pain) is a true test of whether James can take
responsibility for himself. He notes that these two explanations are
viable enough to allow him to absolve himself of the past twenty-three
years of pain and damage. But in the end, James chooses to believe
that he is responsible for his own actions.
The Bald Man’s graduation marks a pinnacle in the maturity
of James Frey. At past graduations, he has been indifferent, cynical,
or sad, but at this graduation he is visibly moved. He feels chills
up his back, and he feels hope for the first time. Lilly’s anger
at James is cause for concern, certainly. But that doesn’t seem
to dampen his deep sense of contentedness. This chapter of James’s
life closes with him realizing ultimately that the act of drawing
strength from others and acting as a possible source of strength
is the most effective form of killing the Fury.
Ace your assignments with our guide to A Million Little Pieces!