For sneaking out of the house, Charlie’s parents “sentence” him to his room until the New Year. Charlie resumes his story on Boxing Day, shortly after Jeffrey has been made “twelfth man” for the cricket team. Jeffrey won this position because the team needed an errand runner, not because of his talent. Because Jeffrey will be playing on Boxing Day, Charlie’s parents let him out of his room to watch.
This chapter begins on a comic note, with the word “sentence” being amusingly overstated. It also opens with an optimistic tone, since Jeffrey has achieved a longtime goal by making the cricket team. Charlie’s parents know how important Jeffrey is to Charlie, so they let Charlie go to his cricket match.
Charlie’s narrative jumps back to the night his parents found him missing. After Charlie returned, he walked into his home with the Sarge and his parents. The Sarge sat down with Charlie and asked him questions. His first question was whether Charlie had been with Jasper Jones. In that instant, Charlie discovered that he enjoyed lying. He told the Sarge that he was “fond” of Eliza Wishart, and that he’d wanted to go see her, in order to comfort her. To Charlie’s surprise, the Sarge accepted his lie. Charlie added that he’d been unable to make it to Eliza’s, and so he returned to his house, trying to avoid the search cars. As he told this lie, Charlie began to enjoy himself.
Charlie discovers that he’s not only capable of lying—he’s also good at it. He’s maturing in a new way now, and has learned to deal with his anxiety about Laura by using words and stories as defenses. More than ever, Silvey suggests that lying and secret-keeping are a part of growing up. Only when one carries secrets, and learns how to conceal them, does one gain the necessary maturity to call oneself an adult. At the same time, there’s undeniably something childish and amusing about seeing Charlie, a boy, lie to the Sarge.
After Charlie finished his story, the Sarge told Charlie that he was “a lucky boy,” and that he couldn’t keep sneaking out, even to help Eliza. Charlie marveled that this calm, fatherly person was the same Sarge who beat Jasper Jones.
The Sarge’s “double life” (his ability to be kind to Charlie and cruel to Jasper) underscores the level of racism in Corrigan, as well as the importance of “double lives” to all the people of Corrigan: everyone has secrets to hide.
After the Sarge left the house, Charlie’s parents told him that he’d be grounded until the end of the year. Afterwards, Charlie’s mother yelled at Wesley, accusing him of being a neglectful father who didn’t pay attention to his own wife or child, or care about their feelings. Charlie was surprised that his mother would accuse his father of any of these things, since it wasn’t his father that Charlie snuck out with. Charlie thought that his mother was using the incident as an opportunity to tell Wesley the things she’d been thinking for years.
While Charlie has been learning to deal with his thoughts and feelings by controlling them and keeping them secret, his mother has become less and less capable of doing the same. Clearly, she’s harboring years of resentment, and can’t help but let it out. While keeping secrets is a part of growing up, it’s not always something healthy or useful, so in one sense, Charlie’s mother is finally being honest with herself and her family.
As Charlie’s mother yelled at Wesley, Wesley remained calm and quiet. Charlie’s mother said that Corrigan was destroying her life and harming her family. Wesley responded by addressing Charlie’s mother as Ruth. He told Ruth that there were “things” she thought he didn’t know, but he did. With this, Wesley told Ruth and Charlie to go to bed, adding that he was very angry with Charlie, and that they’d talk later. Ruth yelled that Wesley and Charlie talked about her behind her back, blaming everything on her. In response, Wesley only told Ruth to go to bed again. As Charlie walked to his room, he noticed how sad and tired his father looked.
Wesley’s hint that he “knows things” about Ruth is an early clue to what Ruth does with her time alone in Corrigan—although one can already probably guess what’s going on. Throughout the entire exchange, Silvey is careful to portray Wesley as the victim, never the aggressor. Wesley behaves calmly and coolly, emphasizing Ruth’s childish anger. Charlie gains enormous respect for his father in these situations, and he also gets a model of civility to which he can aspire.
For the next few weeks, Charlie spent much of his time reading the newspaper for news of Laura. There was almost no news of her, and gradually the columns on her disappearance became shorter, until there were none at all. Charlie only went outside to do chores in his backyard, but he “escaped” into the worlds of books. His favorite book that he read during this time was Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, whose protagonist reminded him of Jasper. Charlie also thought about Eliza during his time indoors—he wished he could comfort her, and smell her.
Charlie uses literature—both reading and writing—to escape from his sense of confinement. There is something highly mature about this form of escape. Whereas Ruth and Jasper fantasize about physical departures from Corrigan, Charlie uses fiction to work through his desire for escape without actually planning to escape. This is an extremely important distinction to keep in mind, especially in the second half of the book.
During his grounded period, Charlie spent long hours writing. He daydreamed about living in Manhattan with Eliza, talking about his latest novel with Ernest Hemingway.
Charlie’s fantasies of success are indistinguishable from his fantasies of love and sex. In a way, both fantasies are versions of the same thing—Charlie’s desire to grow up as soon as possible.
The narrative catches up to the present, and on Boxing Day Charlie walks to the cricket courts, savoring “the thrill of being outside.” As he arrives at the courts, he sees that Jeffrey is playing. Charlie runs up to the sidelines to talk to Jeffrey, who explains that he’s subbing out for Jim Quincy, another player, who has appendicitis. Jeffrey is overjoyed to be playing, and thinks that the team might let him bowl. Charlie notices that there is a large crowd watching the game.
Despite the barriers that exist to prevent Jeffrey from playing cricket, his optimism and persistence seem to have paid off, and he’s finally been given a chance to play. Sometimes it’s better to prepare for the best than to deny that the best will ever happen.
An opponent of Jeffrey’s team hits the ball in Jeffrey’s direction, and he runs after it, looking to catch it. Charlie watches as Jeffrey runs as fast as he can, but he misses the ball, and the crowd groans. Warwick Trent, also on Jeffrey’s team, is angry, and calls Jeffrey “Cong.” Jeffrey runs back to his position, where he and Charlie quietly laugh and make fun of Warwick. Jeffrey asks Charlie bizarre questions—if he’d rather wear a hat made of spiders or have penises for fingers. Charlie laughs, and the two friends “trash talk” each other.
In part, Jeffrey’s initial failure is clearly because he’s “rusty”—if he’d been allowed to play cricket all season, he’d definitely be better. This is an insightful point about racism and “equal opportunity” —in order for the privileged to understand the disadvantaged’s performance in all walks of life, they must also understand their background and the disadvantages they’ve grappled with in the past.
The cricket match continues, and the opposing team, from Backburn, does well, scoring many points against Corrigan. Toward the end of the game, Warwick Trent goes to bowl against the opposing team. Charlie angrily thinks that he should use Jeffrey, whose bowling skills are excellent. Instead, Charlie notes, Jeffrey is forced to stand and watch—on his one chance to impress the cricket team, he’s barely allowed to play.
Charlie takes the cynical view of affairs, concluding that Jeffrey will never get to play cricket again. Jeffrey, we can assume, thinks nothing of the kind—he continues to remain optimistic, hoping for another chance to bowl or hit. Charlie’s approach hasn’t been very successful so far, so we’re inclined to side with Jeffrey.
Charlie notices that Eliza is watching the game from a hill. She waves to him, and he waves back. Jeffrey teases Charlie and urges him to talk to Eliza. Charlie walks forward to Eliza, nervously trying to think of something clever to say to her. Eliza invites him to sit with her on the hill, and as he sits down, he notes that she smells wonderful. Charlie and Eliza talk playfully about living in New York, and Charlie gives her an awkward compliment about how he’d wait all day to see her. Eliza blushes.
Here, it becomes clear to Charlie that Eliza likes him (something that was already clear to the reader!). Charlie no longer regards Eliza with horror, associating her with her dead sister. This suggests that, although he’s still traumatized by the sight of Laura’s corpse, he has found ways to cope with it and move on with his life.
Eliza and Charlie watch the cricket match, and Charlie secretly rejoices whenever Warwick Trent misses a hit. Eliza compliments Charlie’s shirt, and Charlie compliments her dress. Then, unexpectedly, Eliza mentions Laura. She tells Charlie that her father acts like Laura never existed. She begins to cry, and Charlie, after much thought, gives Eliza his handkerchief. Eliza tells Charlie that her family—except for her father—still acts like Laura could return at any time. Charlie feels an urge to tell her what he knows about Laura, but he keeps quiet. Eliza asks Charlie to make her laugh, and Charlie asks Eliza the question Jeffrey asked him: “Would you rather wear a hat made of spiders or have penises for hands?” Eliza laughs and chooses the penises. Charlie tells her he chose the same thing.
In this section, Silvey stops depicting Eliza as an unattainable ideal, and humanizes her. She’s just like Charlie in many ways: vulnerable, nervous, and intelligent. She also shares a childish sense of humor with Charlie and Jeffrey—a welcome moment of humor in an otherwise serious passage of the novel. Silvey shows that humor and laughter are important tools for fighting depression and trauma. By telling stories and being creative, Jeffrey, Charlie, and now Eliza overcome their complicated emotions and bond with one another.
As the game goes on, Charlie asks Eliza more silly questions, and she continues to laugh. They notice that it’s the Corrigan team’s turn to bat, and Jeffrey is up. The bowler, who obviously thinks little of Jeffrey because he’s short and Asian, bowls, and Jeffrey hits the ball out of bounds, ending the game with a win for Blackburn. Just as the teams are about to shake hands, the umpire yells that the bowler was over the line—Jeffrey has another chance to hit. The bowler throws the ball, and it hits Jeffrey’s shoulder. The Corrigan team laughs at this. On the bowler’s next pitch, Jeffrey hits the ball far enough to achieve four runs. The crowd is so surprised that there is no applause, only silence. On Jeffrey’s next hit, he scores another four runs. He continues to score points on the increasingly irritated Blackburn team, and Eliza tells Charlie that she had no idea Jeffrey was so talented.
In this section (which is full of cricket terminology that may be difficult for Americans to understand), Jeffrey proves that he’s an enormously capable and talented cricket player. This proves what we already knew—the townspeople of Corrigan were holding him back from his athletic abilities, refusing to let him play or practice. Jeffrey also proves that his small stature can be an asset in athletic play, as it allows him to maneuver quickly past the other players. This suggests that there are ways to distinguish oneself athletically in Corrigan without being a huge bully, like Warwick Trent.
There is a short break in the game, with Jeffrey still up to bat. The Corrigan team brings Jeffrey a drink, and Charlie realizes that they’ve begun to grudgingly respect Jeffrey. Jeffrey returns to bat, looking neither nervous nor intimidated. A new bowler bowls to Jeffrey, and he hits three impressive hits in a row. Children, mothers, and fathers all pay special attention to Jeffrey—even if they don’t care about cricket, they can sense that he’s an extremely talented player. On his next hit, Jeffrey fails to “take the strike,” meaning that he has only one “set” of hits left before he’s no longer at bat. The Corrigan coach calls a time out, and although he has no idea what the score of the game is, Charlie can tell from the urgency with which the coach talks to Jeffrey that it must be very close.
Jeffrey has begun to earn the loyalty of his teammates—the same teammates whom just minutes ago called Jeffrey insulting, racist names. Here Silvey shows that minorities can sometimes “earn” the respect and even the admiration of racists by distinguishing themselves in various ways. There’s nothing fair about this process, however, as whites certainly don’t have to distinguish themselves to non-whites in the same way. On a purely technical level, it’s impressive that Silvey builds suspense, even for American readers who are largely unfamiliar with the athletic terms of cricket.
Jeffrey returns to bat for his final set of hits, and Eliza grips Charlie’s hand with excitement, much to Charlie’s delight. When the bowler throws the ball, Jeffrey runs instead of hitting, in an attempt to score one quick point. The bowler illegally stands in front of Jeffrey’s path, and the crowd howls at the “injustice.” Charlie realizes that Jeffrey has quietly won over his audience—they’re on his side. The umpire reprimands the bowler for blocking Jeffrey’s run, and Jeffrey returns to bat.
Jeffrey has been so successful as a cricket player in this match that he’s won over the entire crowd, not just his teammates. Even the umpire takes Jeffrey’s side (versus what we’ve seen in the past, where the referees are biased against Jeffrey, even when other players commit fouls against him).
On his next hit, Jeffrey scores two runs, and his teammates encourage him. One teammate calls him “Cong,” but he means it as a nickname instead of an insult. On the next few bowls, the bowler throws difficult, steeply bouncing bowls that the audience regards as illegal. Charlie realizes that Jeffrey is down to the last bowl of the inning, and that Corrigan must be within a few points of a victory. Eliza moans that she can’t watch, and the crowd and Corrigan team yell encouragement to Jeffrey. On his final hit, Jeffrey manages to hit the ball past the outfielders, scoring four runs and winning the game for Corrigan.
This section shows the limits of Jeffrey’s quest to earn respect for himself. He “transforms” his racist nickname into a term of approval—but the fact remains that his nickname, “Cong,” is still insulting and dehumanizing. Even so, it’s impressive to see Jeffrey field difficult bowls and win the game. One gets the sense that Jeffrey isn’t trying to earn respect at all, but just wants to play the game he loves and win. The respect comes as a byproduct.
When Jeffrey wins the game for Corrigan, the crowd explodes with applause. Jeffrey’s teammates, even Warwick Trent, slap him on the back and congratulate him. As the players walk out of the court, someone carries Jeffrey’s bag for him.
The evidence of Jeffrey’s success is very clear here. At the beginning of the game, Jeffrey had to carry other players’ bags, but now they carry his.
Eliza and Charlie watch the players walk off the field. Eliza tells Charlie a secret: she’s been walking by the bookstore for the last two weeks, hoping to run into Charlie. She reveals that she heard that Charlie tried to visit her, and that he was grounded as a result. She calls Charlie sweet, and kisses him. Charlie struggles to describe the kiss—in the end, he concludes that there are no words for it.
Eliza’s clearly attracted to Charlie, and her attraction is at least partially based on her awareness that he is attracted to her. It’s amusing that Charlie’s lie about sneaking off to see Eliza has paid off so grandly for him.
Charlie and Eliza continue to kiss on the hill. Suddenly, a voice calls out, and Charlie and Eliza turn—it’s Jeffrey, running up the hill with a huge smile on his face. Jeffrey brags good-naturedly about his hits, and Charlie, instead of trash-talking back, tells Jeffrey that he was incredible. Eliza mentions the penis-fingers question, and she and Jeffrey bicker playfully. Then, Jeffrey asks Charlie for a ride home, pointing to Wesley, who’s standing near the cricket courts. Charlie wonders if Wesley saw him kissing Eliza, and if he’ll be angry. Eliza says goodbye to Charlie, and walks away from the hill.
Even in his moment of greatest triumph—having kissed Eliza—Charlie is still very much a child, worrying needlessly that his father will be angry that he’s kissed a girl. It’s important to measure Charlie’s progress gradually. Even though he’s grown a great deal since the beginning of the novel, he has a long way to go before he reaches anything like total maturity.
Jeffrey and Charlie walk to Wesley’s car, laughing about Superman and Lois Lane, as they usually do. In the car, Wesley congratulates Jeffrey and mentions that he ran into Pete Wishart, Eliza’s father, who was drunk, but had seen Jeffrey play and was eager to praise him. Wesley tells Charlie, wryly, that Pete “didn’t see anything else,” and Jeffrey laughs. Wesley smiles and winks at Charlie.
It’s obvious that Wesley doesn’t mind that Charlie kissed Eliza, so Charlie’s fear was childish and unsubstantiated. At this stage in the novel, Pete Wishart seems like a harmless, even comical alcoholic, but it’s still disturbing that such a man could serve as the president of anything, much less an entire shire.
The evening after Jeffrey’s cricket victory, Jeffrey, Charlie, and Charlie’s parents eat dinner together. Jeffrey recounts his hits, but neither Charlie nor Ruth pays much attention. Charlie can’t help thinking about Eliza, and Charlie’s mother seems lost in thought. Charlie makes eye contact with Wesley, and he reminds himself to be diplomatic. Instead of complaining to his mother, he compliments her on her cooking. Charlie wonders if his father knows he lied about sneaking out to see Eliza. He also wishes Jasper Jones would come by tonight—he wants to tell him about kissing Eliza.
Here we see how much progress Charlie has made with lying and diplomacy. As he acknowledges in this section, there’s a pleasure simply in the act of lying. Charlie’s secrets are getting more and more complicated. One sign of his maturity is that he’s eager to tell Jasper about kissing Eliza, because it means that Charlie is closer to the kind of maturity Jasper has already embodied by dating Laura Wishart.
Between the night Charlie was caught sneaking out and Boxing Day, Jasper has visited Charlie twice. The first time, a few days after Charlie is caught, Jasper comes with the news that he’s found proof that Jack Lionel was responsible for Laura’s death. Charlie sits by his window, whispering to Jasper. Jasper explains that he snuck into Jack’s house and explored his shed, kitchen, and garden. Near the garden, Jasper found an old, rusty car—inside the car, he saw the word “Sorry” etched deep into the rust.
Jasper’s discovery seems to implicate Mad Jack, but once again, the lack of certainty makes us suspicious that Jack is guilty. Like Charlie, we’re dissatisfied with the evidence because it’s “too neat.” In addition, Silvey has already made it clear that many people feel a desire to apologize to others—this is a clue that either “sorry” could have been written by any number of people other than Jack.
Charlie isn’t sure what to make of Jasper’s news. Jasper seems certain that Mad Jack is responsible for Laura’s murder. At the same time, Charlie recognizes that, like Atticus Finch, he should weigh all the evidence carefully. Charlie asks Jasper why the police haven’t visited Mad Jack’s house yet, if he’s such a likely suspect. Jasper replies that the police are incompetent. He adds that Jack caught him on his property. As Jasper was leaving, he saw Jack sitting on his back porch, yelling, “I knew it were you!”
Jasper’s charisma continues to persuade Charlie to believe him, but Jasper’s answers, when read on the page, seem strikingly insubstantial. He’s sure that Mad Jack is responsible for Laura’s murder, but he’s never refuted the most basic objection to this hypothesis, which Charlie named at the beginning of the book—that Jack is too old to climb a tree and hang a young girl.
Before Charlie can question Jasper further, he hears three knocks at his door—it’s his mother. Jasper quickly runs away, and Charlie closes his window and unlocks his door. Ruth walks in and looks around suspiciously. Charlie thinks that by sneaking out, he’s embarrassed his mother—her reputation in the town is no longer that of a perfect parent with a perfect child. Charlie takes snide pleasure in ruining Ruth’s reputation in this way. Shortly afterwards, Ruth closes the door and leaves Charlie alone.
Charlie has now become more conscious of others’ emphasis on the appearance of normality. Even after he’s grown to develop his own secrets (and create his own false appearances), he continues to believe that the truth ultimately triumphs. Thus, Charlie plans to lie about Laura for a short time before finally revealing the truth.
It has been three nights since Charlie last saw Jasper, he writes. Tonight, he is writing in his notebooks. Almost without thinking, he writes, “sorry,” on the paper, and then begins to write a story to accompany the word. As he writes, Charlie thinks that “sorry” is one of the noblest things to say—it takes genuine maturity even to say the word to another. “Sorry” can be sarcastic, but it can also be a gesture of humility, or a gift from one person to another. Even as he thinks this, Charlie begins to doubt himself. Perhaps “sorry” isn’t much of a gift at all—it’s like an empty box, promising much but ultimately delivering nothing.
Charlie reaches a frustrating but balanced conclusion—barely even a conclusion at all—about apologies. Apologies can be either sincere or insincere, sympathetic or heartless. They can reflect the apologizer’s emotion or lack thereof. None of this is new information, either for us or for Charlie. Still, there is something impressive about Charlie’s ability to remain “on the fence” about such matters, rather than instinctively take a strong opinion, like Jasper or Ruth.
Charlie writes a poem for Eliza. The poem explains that a tree doesn’t know how beautiful it is, and doesn’t recognize when others appreciate its beauty. The poem ends, “I’m glad you’re not a tree.” After he writes it, Charlie imagines living in Manhattan and talking to writers like Jack Kerouac, Truman Capote, and Ken Kesey.
Charlie again shows that his romantic and creative interests are closely linked. We’ve already seen plenty of evidence that this is the case. For example, his dreams of living in New York always end with visits to see Eliza.
As he sits in bed and thinks about his literary heroes, Charlie hears a loud noise coming from outside. He goes to the living room, looks out the window, and sees a group of four men outside Jeffrey’s house, destroying An Lu’s prized garden. An Lu runs outside and, with surprising calmness, asks the men what they’re doing. The men hit An, and he falls to the ground. Charlie sees Jeffrey and Mrs. Lu running outside—at this point, Charlie yells for his dad. Wesley comes out of his room, followed by Ruth, and, when he sees what’s going on, he runs outside to protect An.
This is a heartbreaking scene, because it shows the limits of Jeffrey’s ability to fight against racism on his own. Even after he proves that he’s an excellent cricketer (a skill the town greatly values), Jeffrey still remains a “gook”—meaning that his entire family is targeted and attacked for their race. It’s even possible that his athletic prowess is what brought about this attack on his father. Ending racism is the responsibility of the racists, not those being discriminated against. At the same time, it’s inspiring to see Wesley rush to An’s defense without any hesitation.
Wesley takes on the four men attacking An, skillfully ducking their punches. Charlie notes with pride and surprise that Wesley is the strongest and tallest man outside. As Wesley wrestles the men, Harry Rawlings, a neighbor and strong, athletic truck driver, joins in and helps him, and together they easily push the assailants to the ground. Roy Sparkman, another neighbor, runs from his house to the scene, and notices that the four assailants have a truck parked outside the Lus’ house. Roy takes the keys from the ignition. The youngest of the four men breaks away from Wesley and Roy and runs into the night. Maggie Sparkman, Roy’s wife, yells after the man, addressing him as James Trent.
This is a turning point in the novel, because it shows that Corrigan has plenty to be proud of, even when one considers the racism and anti-intellectualism previously on display there. It’s not just Wesley, in other words, who rushes to defend An—it’s everyone who lives near the Lus’ house. There are still some good, honest people in Corrigan, and plenty of them. It’s also notable that James Trent shares a last name with Warwick, so it’s likely that he’s Warwick’s father or brother—possibly explaining where Warwick picked up his racist bullying.
Three assailants now lie on the ground, along with An Lu. Wesley, Charlie, Harry, and Roy stand on the lawn. Jeffrey runs toward one of the assailants, angrier than Charlie has ever seen him. Before he can attack the man, Harry grabs him and holds him back. Wesley asks Charlie to take Jeffrey inside, but Charlie thinks that he’ll never succeed—they both have to watch what happens.
One of the most poignant moments in this scene is Jeffrey’s anger. Previously, Jeffrey was always happy and lighthearted, but here, he’s the first to seek revenge against the people who tried to hurt his father. His desire for revenge seems perfectly reasonable, but it’s all the more moving because we’ve never seen him get angry before.
The oldest of the remaining assailants, a man Charlie identifies at Mick, staggers up—Charlie thinks that he looks drunk. He calls An Lu “red” and accuses him of murdering Laura. In response, Harry punches Mick in the jaw and throws him his keys. Mick and his two friends climb into the car and drive away, muttering that the “rats” are destroying the country. Wesley yells “Go home!” after them, and Charlie feels proud—he was wrong to imagine that his father was a coward.
Previously, Charlie has resented his father for behaving passively and quietly in the face of injustices of all kinds, but here, it becomes possible that Wesley’s passivity is diplomatic, not symptomatic of his laziness or fear. He’s capable of feats of great strength and bravery. For the rest of the novel, Charlie will try to measure up to his father’s bravery—he has an excellent role model.
After the men drive away, Wesley tells An Lu, “I’m sorry.” Harry greets Jeffrey and compliments him on his cricket match the previous day. Jeffrey nods in thanks, but says nothing. Jeffrey and Mrs. Lu help An into his house.
It’s important that Harry compliments Jeffrey’s athleticism. Perhaps Harry senses that the vandalism directed at the Lus was a reaction to Jeffrey’s success.
Wesley and Ruth walk Charlie back to their house, and Wesley says he’s sorry Charlie had to see An being attacked. He pulls out a pack of cards and three glasses of port. Together, he, Ruth, and Charlie stay up, drinking and playing canasta. Ruth is a superb canasta player, and she enjoys talking trash with her husband and son. Wesley and Charlie play along, smiling.
This is a rare moment of humor and bonding between all three members of the Bucktin family. Perhaps it’s symbolic that even here, in this scene of happiness and contentment, all three Bucktins are keeping “secrets” from one another. Silvey suggests that everyone has secrets, and at all times.
After playing cards for an hour, Wesley, Charlie, and Ruth get up to go to bed. Wesley asks Charlie if he’s all right—Charlie says that he is, even though he’s greatly disturbed by what he’s seen. He can’t understand how his parents can forget what happened so easily. He thinks about Eliza, crying over her sister’s disappearance, and wishes he’d shown more bravery and kindness in comforting her—much as Wesley has shown great bravery and compassion in defending An tonight.
In this scene, it’s clear that Wesley provides a role model for Charlie to aspire to. Charlie wants to be brave and dependable, and this requires that he take action. Throughout the first half of the book, Charlie has struggled to translate his thoughts into deeds (much like Hamlet). Now that he has a clear example of how to do so, he will be more successful when dealing with Jasper and Eliza.
Charlie thinks angrily about how Jeffrey was on top of the world all day, and now has to deal with the misery of the attack on his father. He contemplates Jasper, wrongfully bullied and beaten for Laura’s disappearance, and realizes that Eliza will hate Charlie if she ever learns that he knew about Laura. It’s only a matter of time, he concludes, before he faces the consequences of his actions and his lies.
At the end of the chapter, Silvey suggests that there are always consequences to keeping secrets. The assumption here is that truth will eventually “win out,” even if it causes harm and destruction in the process. Silvey will honor—but also subtly revise —this assumption before the novel is over.