That night I kept thinking about Pandora's box. I wondered why someone would put a good thing such as Hope in a box with sickness and kidnapping and murder. It was fortunate that it was there, though. If not, people would have the birds of sadness nesting in their hair all the time, because of nuclear wars and the greenhouse effect and bombs and stabbings and lunatics. There must have been another box with all the good things in it, like sunshine and love and trees and all that. Who had the good fortune to open that one, and was there one bad thing down there in the bottom of the good box? Maybe it was Worry. Even when everything seems fine and good, I worry that something will go wrong and change everything.
This quote is from Chapter 27, when Sal reflects on the myth of Pandora, which Phoebe presented that day in class. First, she reasons that trouble surrounds us no matter where we go. No matter how perfect our lives may seem, we are vulnerable to the strife and potential for destruction that characterizes the human condition. Hope, according to Sal, allows us to go on, to live bravely and with relative happiness in the context of intractable suffering and sadness. Sal also learns this lesson at the end of the book, when she realizes that although she has suffered through a tragedy that will affect her entire life, life is still worth living and will still shower blessings down upon her. Then, elaborating on the Pandora myth, Sal imagines a box with all "the good things," but containing one negative emotion, worry, which has the power to neutralize all the good in the world. Both Sal and Phoebe demonstrate the effects of worry, which alters their perspectives and causes them to focus not on the abundant blessings in their life but upon their lives' one or two serious flaws.