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Summary: Chapter 5: The Naked Now

Geraldine won’t leave her bedroom, so Joe and Judge Coutts plant her spring garden with her favorite flowers. When Judge Coutts heads out for more plants, Joe takes food up to Geraldine. He talks about gardening and asks her about the file that she went to get on the day she was attacked. She denies there was a file but seems very frightened. When Joe swears that he will kill her attacker, Geraldine orders him not to pursue the man. Joe realizes that she knows the identity of her attacker. 

When Judge Coutts returns, Joe shows him the gas can from the lake. Judge Coutts orders Joe to stop playing detective, and Joe gets on his bike and pedals away, furious. He rounds up his friends and they go to Mass so that he can meet the new priest, Father Travis. Later that evening, the boys spy on Father Travis. They get past a pack of snarling dogs, sneak through the cemetery and their ancestors’ graves, and peek through a window. They watch the movie Alien over Father Travis’s shoulder. Then they watch the priest undress and see that his genitals are terribly scarred. After Father Travis catches the boys, he gives them an angry lecture about why he cannot be the rapist, and then he lets them go.

Analysis: Chapter 5: The Naked Now

Chapter 5 introduces the motif of duality through a fascinating character in Father Travis, the new Catholic priest. An ex-marine, Father Travis startles the community by shooting prairie dogs. Judge Coutts and Uncle Edward suspect that he might be the attacker due to his dual nature. Edward even recounts to Judge Coutts that sometimes he sees the man as two different priests: one dispenses holy water to the congregation, and the other serves as a sinister mirror image holding a rifle. The scene in which Joe and his friends watch Alien behind Father Travis’s back plays with the symbolic idea that Father Travis is an alien invader into their lands. But the boys learn that he cannot be the attacker, and so the nature of his duality changes. It is not between a good self and a bad self but between the same person on either side of a horrible event. In Father Travis’s case, that event was a bomb attack that destroyed his groin. This dramatic change, resulting in almost two different identities before and after the event, is mirrored by the changes that Joe and his family go through after Geraldine’s attack. Father Travis’s presence will further develop the dualities present in the characters’ lives.