Jadine reports to Margaret that she saw Valerian and the man laughing together, and the two of them discuss what they should do about him. They decide to call the police, but their plan is cancelled when they see the man that day cleaned up and nicely dressed.

While Jadine was outside thinking, the man has been in Jadine’s room showering—the water that runs off of him is dark. When he gets out of the shower, he looks in the mirror, sees how wild his hair looked, and realizes that his hair must have been part of what scared Jadine. When he leaves Jadine’s room, he intentionally leaves his pajamas behind for her to find. He thinks about how everyone in the house is afraid of him, except for Valerian. Their fear is humorous to him because he has no intention of being violent, particularly toward the women.

After cleaning up, the man recalls his arrival on the island and how he had not intended to stop at L’Arbe de la Croix. He chose to stop at the house because of how nice and civilized it looked. Throughout this internal monologue, he constantly reiterates that he did not follow the women from the boat onto the island. He is trying to remind himself that he did not come to the house because of Jadine. His first night, he had climbed into a tree to look into the house and felt a fruit that might be either an avocado or a poisonous ake fruit. He initially decided to avoid it but then changed his mind and took a bite, and it turned out to be an avocado. The man eventually found his way into L’Arbe de la Croix, and when he saw Jadine sleeping he was mesmerized, going back, night after night, to see her. Watching her, he thought about his concern for not following the women. His purpose changed as Jadine’s beauty won him over.

The man’s memories carry him up to the present day and to his only true name. Though in recent years he has gone by a variety of aliases, the only one that is really his is not even on his papers. The name is “Son,” a nickname from his family and his small hometown. He watches Gideon working through the window and notes how clean he is and how dirty Gideon is. Son feels heartbroken as he thinks about how hard Gideon works.

From the greenhouse, Valerian looks out to the laundry. The view makes him think of his childhood because there was a laundry shed behind his childhood house. An old black woman worked there. The day Valerian’s father died, he went to see this woman, and when he told her about his father, she told him to help her with the washing. He washed clothes until his knuckles turned red and took pleasure in it. After that day, the woman was fired. When he moved to L’Arbe de la Croix, Valerian had the washing shed built even though it was impractical.

Valerian regrets telling Jadine that his move to the island was related to Margaret’s relationship with Michael. He thinks that the real reason he wanted to move was Philadelphia’s modernization. Thinking about Philadelphia makes Valerian think about his first wife, whom he did not love and who had two abortions during their marriage and died long after they had divorced. When he is in the greenhouse, her ghost often visits him. Thinking of her reminds him of how Micheal’s ghostly presence appeared to him at dinner the night before Margaret discovered Son. When the ghostly Michael appeared, he seemed to be smiling in a welcoming way, and Valerian thinks that the smile might have been what prompted him to ask Son to stay. Michael, the young Socialist, would have wanted the threatening black man to be welcomed at dinner. Valerian refuses to tell Margaret as much, but he really hopes Michael will come for Christmas, and he hopes that if Michael comes, there will be a reconciliation between them. He remembers again the day he came home and found Michael under the sink.

Son comes into the greenhouse and tells Valerian his given name: William Green. Valerian asks Son what he was really doing in Margaret’s closet, and Son tells him that he got lost looking for Jadine’s bedroom. Ants come into the greenhouse, and Son tells Valerian he should use mirrors to repel the ants. Son then picks up a cyclamen plant that refuses to flower and he shakes it. He tells Valerian that the shaking will simulate wind and that the plant should flower soon. Valerian tells Son he will buy him a new suit if he is right. Son tells Valerian a joke, and Valerian is laughing at this joke as Jadine arrives at the greenhouse.

Thérèse and Gideon take Son into town, and Gideon gives Son a haircut. Afterward, Gideon, Son, Thérèse, and Alma Estée have dinner together, and Son seems relaxed. Thérèse asks Son if it is true that American women kill their own babies, and Gideon tells her she is foolish. In Thérèse’s imagination, America is full of sexual perversion and strange gender dynamics. Gideon tells Son not to listen to Thérèse because she is a member of the island’s blind race, a group of people descended from the first slaves who came to the island. These people supposedly live in the swamp and roam the hills on horseback.

Thérèse reveals that she was responsible for leaving the window of L’Arbe de la Croix open so Son could get in, and she talks about how much she hates Ondine and nicknames her “machete-hair.” Gideon tells Son that she is just bitter because the American blacks ignore her. He also explains to Son that Thérèse used to be a wet nurse for white women but that the invention of formula put her out of business. Thérèse leaves the room, and Gideon tells Son he might be able to get work on the island and then asks if he wants to sleep with Jadine, whom he refers to as “that yalla.” When the two men leave the house, Alma Estée asks Son if he will buy her a wig in America.

Back at the house, Son tries to apologize to Jadine for the fight they had in her room, and she asks him how he knew how to make Valerian’s flower bloom. He replies that he grew up in the country. She feels uncomfortable by how attractive he is. After Son leaves, Jadine thinks about how glad she is that she booked a secret ticket back to New York for after Christmas. She worries that her training in art history makes her unable to see Son properly or to really assess her feelings about him, because she gets distracted by how attractive he is.

After leaving Jadine, Son goes to the kitchen and apologizes to Ondine for scaring her. He also tells her he is an outlaw because he fled an insurance claim after he had a car accident in the United States. Ondine is reluctant to accept his apology, and she irritates Son by calling Gideon Yardman, but still he persists in trying to win her over. When Sydney comes in, Son apologizes to him too, and Sydney gives him a hard time but softens a little when Son asks if he can eat in the kitchen with them.

At night, Son eats with Ondine and Sydney in the kitchen, and Jadine, Margaret, and Valerian eat in the dining room. Everyone is in good spirits. Valerian cracks old jokes, and Margaret talks excitedly about Christmas. After dinner, Son has trouble falling asleep, and he thinks about how he feels separated from other men by his wanderings and by his time abroad. He has no past to hold on to and no rituals to mark the passing of his life. He is eager to go home but feels strangely compelled to try to stay at L’Arbe de la Croix every time he thinks of Jadine.

In the morning, he invites Jadine on a picnic, and she agrees. The thought of her leaving the island scares him. During lunch she sketches him, and he tells her the story of the first money he ever earned, adding that he does not need much more money than he made. She tells him he is lazy and that he fulfills stereotypes about black men. They then talk about his hometown of Eloe, Florida. She says her hometown is three places: Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Paris. When she prods him for his name, he insists that she call him “Son.” She refuses, saying it is not a real name. Son explains that he left Eloe because he killed someone, and she says she hates killers. He reveals that his victim was his wife and that he killed her by accident after crashing his car into their house followed by his discovery of her adultery. Noticing that Jadine has tucked her legs underneath her in a defensive crouch, Son tells her that he would not kill her and he loves her. She reacts angrily, but he calms her. After much coaxing, she unfolds her legs and allows him to hold and stroke one of her feet.

Jadine suddenly announces that she needs to get back to the house. While they drive she reviews the reasons she cannot sleep with him, the chief one being that he would be unmanageable and unpredictable. They run out of gas on the swampy part of the island and while he goes to fill up a bottle, she explores. She comes to a clearing and is amazed at how much the swamp looks like something out of a picture. After walking too far, Jadine sinks into a tar pit. She struggles to get free while swamp women seem to watch her from the trees, and finally she succeeds. When Son returns, she is in her underwear trying to clean herself off. They drive back to the house, with Jadine chagrined and Son grinning to himself. Back at the house, Margaret says that Son is bad luck and hints that he wants Margaret because Son was in her closet. Jadine surprises herself by defending him. She is amazed at the depth of her anger toward Margaret, a white woman, for presuming that Son desires Margaret and not her.


This chapter is the only one to not open with a description of the physical environment. Instead, the narrator begins with a conversation between Margaret and Jadine and ends with a discussion between them. In the beginning, the two women are having a friendly conversation and talking about how they can convince Valerian to ask the man to leave. Their demeanor around each other is pleasant and comfortable. However, when . Jadine almost sinks into the tar pit later in the chapter, a change occurs within her. She spent the day interacting with a man who does not embody civilization and also fought not to drown in a pit of tar. Jadine’s struggle in the tar pit represents the island’s strength over civilization. The scene also implies that even though Jadine does not know how to survive outside of a less civilized environment, she can still fight to escape it. Jadine and Margaret’s conversation at the end of the chapter is very different from their talk in the beginning because Jadine reacts coldly toward Margaret for assuming Son wanted to rape her. Though the chapter does not begin with a physical description of the island, nature has still made a clear impact on the characters.

This chapter develops and expands divisions that exist among the characters, particularly among the black characters. Thérèse’s reference to Ondine as “machete-hair” and Gideon’s reference to Jadine as “that yalla” confirm their dislike of the American blacks, while Ondine’s and Sydney’s continued insistence on calling Gideon “Yardman” indicates their disdain for the native islanders. Jadine continues to be racked with both desire and racially charged anger toward Son. Sydney, Ondine, and Jadine represent a different side of blackness, one that is more civilized and proper. Gideon, Thérèse, and Son identify more with nature and do not understand why the other three characters try so hard to be civilized like Margaret and Valerian. Jadine’s nickname, “that yalla,” identifies her as a woman who is caught between two different worlds: a white world and a black world. Jadine has accepted that she is black, but she does not think that just because she was born black she needs to accept her black culture.

Compared to Jadine, Son appears to play a more complex role in the novel. He is a chameleon in his social interactions, an ability that is exemplified by the radical physical transformation he undergoes early in the chapter. The narrator emphasizes how Son, in preparing himself to enter society, removes the wildness, and also by implication the blackness, from his appearance. While washing himself, the water is described as black as the sea. When he sees himself in a mirror, he realizes that his hair must have been what frightened Jadine. Cleaned up, Son now reveals the different layers of his personality to the other characters. Talking with Valerian is easy, as he shares a dirty joke with him in the greenhouse. And he proves himself able to bridge nature and the civilized world by giving Valerian hints about controlling the ant problem and by assuredly flicking the cyclamen buds to get them to open. With Ondine and Sydney, he presents himself as a well-mannered black man by deferring to them in their kitchen. Their response is to grudgingly begin to welcome him as they realize that he is perhaps not as wild as he first seemed. Outside of the household, he fits in naturally with Thérèse and Gideon and the less urbanized black culture that they represent. Yet in none of these areas, though, is Son entirely at home. He is simply a talented adaptor. When Son considers his deepest nature, he knows America is his home. That is why he is constantly drawn back to his hometown of Eloe, the one place that is truly his.

Jadine lacks a sense of home, as indicated by her descriptions of her hometown as Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Paris. She is equally uncertain in her relationship to the three different layers of the world of the island. For example, in the first chapter, she was eating breakfast in Ondine’s kitchen, talking to them as equals but being waited on as if she were their superior. She eats dinner at Valerian’s table as an honored guest, not just the prior night but also after Son’s arrival, while he eats in the kitchen. She refers to Gideon as “Yardman” even though she knows that it is not his proper name. Jadine, like Son, moves among the different layers of the world. Like Son, she is also filled with discomfort and uncertainty. However, unlike Son, the divide to be navigated is not between different models of black identity but between blackness and whiteness. The uneasiness that she has in trying to figure out her position in relation to this divide comes out particularly clear when she supplies Margaret with a derogatory word to describe Son but then is disturbed when Margaret uses another to describe him. By having two main characters move among different social settings with such disruptive consequences for their psyches, the narrator portrays the difficulty of tying oneself to a single identity firmly. This portrayal also emphasizes Jadine’s absence for a sense of home. She does not feel drawn toward any of her hometowns, nor is she willing to stay in any one place for a long time.

The conflict between different ideas of blackness continues in the relationship between Jadine and Son. When he waxes rhapsodic about his original dime, she mocks him for fulfilling denigrating black stereotypes about simplicity and laziness. The importance of their interaction is that they are both right from their own perspectives. For Son, the best thing in the world really is something close to him and simple, and he does not get excited about money. Jadine believes that this kind of thinking has kept blacks oppressed for centuries, and for her the dependence on money boils down to whether one becomes a part of a predefined system of values or decides to follow one’s own values. Although barely touched on, this conflict between Jadine and Son is important because while they are attracted to one another, each is beginning to see that their different upbringings result in opposing opinions and beliefs.

The tree that Son sees when he first comes to the island, whose fruit could be poisonous or nutritious, is a metaphor for the potential Jadine holds. From the outside he cannot tell which she is, but he cannot deny that he is hungry and that he wants her. Jadine is the one person on the island that Son cannot completely figure out or control. He thinks that the story of his original dime would impress her, but she finds the story ridiculous and repulsive. For a man as filled with self-hatred as Son, a man who despises himself for what he has done with his life, Jadine’s judgment of him actually makes her more attractive, because it fits with his own self-perception. However, Son’s uncertainty toward eating the fruit implies he is unsure of Jadine’s true character and what she represents. He eats the fruit because he cannot resist it, just as he cannot tear himself away from Jadine.

Jadine is drawn to Son from an equal sense of misperception as the one from which he suffers. Son misjudges Jadine because her beauty blinds him, and her fiery spirit draws him toward her. With Jadine, like the tar pit into which she falls, she cannot see past the perfect exterior that Son presents. Earlier in the chapter, she fears that she is being misled by the beautiful appearance of his black face and missing his true character. It is no coincidence that the pit into she falls into is filled with black, malodorous pitch. She almost drowns in a morass of darkness and odor, both features that the narrator links with Son and with blackness. Her picnic with Son forces Jadine to change. After escaping from the tar pit, though, her anger is not directed toward Son. When she returns to the house, Margaret’s attentions are what enrage her. At first she is angry with Margaret for assuming that Son would have tried to do something to her. She feels a sense of solidarity with him as a black man against this rich white woman. Then she realizes that she resents Margaret’s assumptions about what a black man wants because she knows Son does not want Margaret. All of a sudden, all of Jadine’s bulwarks against embracing the danger and wildness that Son embodies disappear. She is angry with and jealous of Margaret because Margaret assumes that he wants to rape her, a white woman. This expectation causes Jadine to think Margaret is implying that black men prefer white women over black women, and this suggestion angers Jadine. For once, Jadine’s racial identity is firmly placed as she sides with Son.

As a motif, the wild horsemen represent the world of humans in the world of nature. The wild horsemen are more a part of the island than a part of humanity, with their sightless eyes and their complete separation from civilization. For this reason they are clearly appealing to Son, who, although he is capable of navigating the world of men, is more closely associated with nature than with humanity. In them, he sees a possibility that lies outside of the restrictions and oppression of man. However, Son is not interested in the wild horsemen enough to ask Thérèse more questions. His interest lies with Jadine.

The repeated discussions of motherhood, abortions, and baby killing emphasize the conflict between nature and civilization, as well as the parallel conflict between blacks and whites. Thérèse’s former employment as a wet nurse who gave her breasts to white women’s children is one way that the narrator indicates the role black women have played in nurturing their oppressors. That Thérèse lost her job to a white invention, baby formula, and that she resents that loss more than she did nursing another woman’s child, is deeply ironic. Thérèse’s suspicious questions about American gender confusion and white women killing their own babies draw a sharp line around unnatural practices that Son cannot deny, and which Valerian’s former wife even willingly committed. Meanwhile, the young girl Alma Estee’s desire for a wig indicates a tragic desire to suppress her own identity. She wants to mask her heritage by covering her African hair. The aspiration of this poor black girl is intentionally and plaintively banal.