In the Lake of the Woods

In the Lake of the Woods

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In the Lake of the Woods Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On the seventh day that John and Kathy spend at Lake of the Woods, John remembers, nothing much happens. They laugh and chat over breakfast, but as Kathy is washing dishes, John notices her make a low sound and look away from him. 24 hours later, John will remember the distance he feels between Kathy and himself in this moment. He often wonders if she would have disappeared had they made love in the kitchen of the cottage.
Immediately after reading about John’s behavior after his father’s death, we see John engaging in similar behavior: he feels an enormous sense of guilt, as if he’s personally responsible for both his father’s death and his wife’s disappearance. This suggests that John is capable of enormous love for other people.
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When John speaks to others later on, he cannot remember every detail of his day with Kathy. He does recall, however, that around noon they went to swim in the lake. As they float in the water, John looks across the lake and imagines that he is a winner. Kathy asks him if he’s all right, and John insists, despites Kathy’s skepticism, that he is. Kathy asks again if he’s all right, and John gets annoyed. He later remembers seeing Kathy clench her jaw after he says that he’s fine.
From the beginning, the information we’re given is unreliable—John admits that he can’t remember everything that happened the day before Kathy disappeared (the fact that he’s talking to “others”—perhaps the police—adds more suspense). One wonders if there should be a similar qualifier next to every one of the quotations we’ve read in the previous chapter—evidence is always a little unreliable if it comes from human beings.
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For the rest of the afternoon, Kathy does crosswords and John organizes bills. Feeling “electricity in his blood,” John twice tries to call Tony Carbo, but learns from Tony’s secretary that he’s left for the day. John doesn’t leave a message. He then says “Kill Jesus,” which he finds funny, and unplugs the phone.
The mention of “electricity” is a vivid way of conveying the suspense at this moment—clearly, something is going to happen. The fact that John unplugs the phone seems highly important, given what we know about Kathy’s disappearance—if she leaves the cottage, there’s no way for her to get in touch with her husband.
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John can’t recall what happened next. He may have napped, or had a drink. He does, however, remember driving into the nearest town with Kathy. During this drive, he feels a pressure in his ears, as if he’s underwater. He and Kathy drive by Pearson’s Texaco station, and a small schoolhouse. John and Kathy arrive in town, park, and pick up some mail they’ve received: a letter from his accountant, and a letter for Kathy from her sister in Minneapolis.
John’s faulty memory seems to correlate to his drinking. Given what we know about John’s father, it would seem that he’s inherited the very qualities that strained his relationship with his father. The “pressure” John feels in his ears seems to foreshadow something, especially because he’s described as feeling as if he’s underwater when we know that Kathy disappeared on (or in) a lake.
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John and Kathy take their mail, go grocery shopping, and then go to a Mini-Mart. Kathy reads her sister’s letter, and complains that her sister has two boyfriends. John finds this “good,” and Kathy responds that men, like politicians, always come in pairs. She says this is a joke, but John isn’t amused. This annoys Kathy, who angrily reminds him, It’s not my fault.” John sees a muscle move in Kathy’s cheek. At 5:24, the waitress who’s serving them at the Mini-Mart notices their argument. Kathy insists, “we lost,” and John responds, “Mr. Monster.”
John and Kathy’s argument is a great example of the “iceberg technique,” referring to what is visible on the surface and what is hidden “beneath the water” —although they seem to be chatting about fairly banal things, we sense that there’s a huge amount of unstated information that’s nonetheless relevant to their conversation. The twitch in Kathy’s cheek is further evidence of the unspoken feeling between them, as is the phrase, “Mr. Monster”—possibly a nickname that John earned during his campaign.
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Back in their cottage, John and Kathy have some food and listen to music. At 8 pm, they walk around outside and watch the moon. John remembers that Kathy refuses to hold his hand for long, and then walking back inside. For the rest of the evening, they don’t make love; instead, they play backgammon. John brings up “that stuff in the newspapers,” but Kathy focuses on the game. Around 11, John claims, they go to bed. Kathy sounds cheerful, as if she doesn’t know that she’s “going away.”
It’s possible that the tension between John and Kathy is at least partly sexual—based on their earlier argument about romantic partners coming in pairs, and the fact that they don’t make love now. The qualifier, “John claims,” throws into doubt all the information we’ve received thus far—it’s been pulled from people who aren’t necessarily trustworthy or reliable.
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