Owning a farm, Ginny thinks, is all about keeping up appearances. So when it becomes clear that there’s a major argument going on within the family, it’s immediately agreed that the argument needs to be hidden from the public, so that the Cook family continues to project an image of unity and success.
Appearances have already been a key theme of the novel: in a small community, everybody knows (or thinks they know) everybody else, and there’s a constant process of surveillance going on. But now that Ginny and Rose control their father’s farmland, they feel a special burden to keep up appearances: to show that they, as women, can be as successful as their famous father.
Ginny dines with Marv Carson, from whom she and Ty are planning to borrow some money to expand their farm. Marv tells Ginny the problem: the bank is afraid that Ty and Ginny won’t be able to honor their loan, due to Larry’s “problems.” Ginny is confused: she and Rose control the land because of their corporation deal. Marv explains that the bank feels uncomfortable loaning money due to the rumors about Larry’s sanity. Ginny assures Marv that he doesn’t have to worry about Larry, and Marv says he has to return to his office.
Ginny and Ty continue with their lofty plans for the farm. They’re young, ambitious, and forward-thinking, and they channel their dreams into farming equipment and silos. The passage offers a concrete example of the importance of keeping up appearances: Marv will lend the family money, but only if he’s confident that Larry is doing all right—Larry continues to command a certain measure of respect in the community, even after he gives away his fortune.
After Marv’s visit, Harold Clark stops by to tell Ginny that there’s a problem: Larry refuses to visit with Ginny or Rose anymore. Ginny insists that Larry is being foolish; she and her sister treat their father well, even though he’s a drunk and a thief (he stole Pete’s truck). Harold tells Ginny that Larry is staying with him for now, but that Ginny and Rose need to start treating their father with more respect—if they were sons instead of daughters, they’d understand. He also says that Rose has always been “trouble,” leading Ginny to tell Harold to shut his mouth. Harold insists that Ginny and Rose must have a Sunday dinner with Larry and try to reconcile with him.
Larry holds a grudge against his daughters—but now that it’s been revealed that he raped Rose (and possibly Ginny) years ago, it’s difficult to muster any more sympathy for him. By withholding the information about Larry’s abuse until halfway through the novel, Smiley challenges readers to form impressions of her characters and then change them mid-stream. (This doesn’t just apply to Larry, but to almost all the characters—even Harold, for example, is now suddenly acting like the victim-blaming defender of a rapist.) The passage also conveys the sexism of Larry’s society: Rose and Ginny may own the farm, but whatever they do will be suspect because of their gender.
For diner, Ty and Ginny host a businessman from Kansas, who’s been talking to them about state-of-the-art farming equipment. The man from Kansas says that his company could bring a silo to the farm very soon. In the following days, bulldozers clear the way for the new equipment. Ginny watches the bulldozers destroy the old machinery and housing.
This is one of the best examples of how Ginny uses business ventures to bury the past. Ginny has a conflicted relationship with her memories and her father, and she seems to want to escape them in some form or other. By bulldozing Larry’s old property, she tries to bury his memory.