Ginny realizes that she’s waiting to run into Jess Clark again. She thinks about the death of Jess’s fiancée and mother, and wonders how he’s remained so happy for so long. One evening, Ty comes home with Jess, saying that Jess is staying for dinner; he’s been working for Ty all day. Ginny is concerned that Jess is a vegetarian and won’t be able to eat the meal she’s prepared.
Ginny seems interested in Jess Clark (even if readers recognize her interest before she herself does). Ginny seems attracted to all things that make Jess different from the average farmer: he’s a vegetarian, which is pretty rare in the America Midwest. One could interpret Jess’s vegetarianism as a rebellion against a farmer’s way of life, and presumably against his father as well.
Jess emerges from the bathroom and talks about Ginny’s house, which used to belong to the Ericsons: Larry bought the property from them when Ginny was a teenager. Jess proceeds to have a lively meal with Ginny and Ty, during which everyone eats noodles, cottage cheese, and other vegetarian dishes, and Jess talks about his admiration for Jimmy Carter. Ginny asks Jess if he’ll move in with Harold now that he’s back in town, but Jess says he doesn’t know. He also mentions his brother, Loren, who’s been acting odd lately: he won’t even talk about whom he’s been dating.
This passage is important for a number of reasons. First, it establishes that the novel is set in the late 1970s, during the Carter administration (Jimmy Carter was the successor to the highly unpopular Nixon/Ford Republican administrations, though Carter went on to be unpopular as well, and communities like this one were traditionally conservative—unlike Jess). Second, it captures the dynamic between the Clarks and the Cooks—everybody seems to be getting along well right now. The passage mentions Loren (the Edgar counterpart from Lear), however, he’ll be a minor character in the novel, and Smiley won’t reveal much more about his personal life.
Ty suggests that Jess rent out some land next year, and Ginny realizes that Ty likes Jess as much as she does: he wants Jess around for good. Jess says it sounds like a good idea, though he’s scared of committing to anything: he should get married and settle down some day.
Ty likes Jess, but the only way he can express his admiration for Jess is in “farm terms”—talking about land with him. Jess’s fear of commitment and his love of freedom are both charming and irresponsible.
It’s late at night, but Ty, Jess, and Ginny talk about a news story: a woman was murdered in a nearby town. A man tried to break into his ex-girlfriend’s house, and stabbed her to death—the police shot him when they found him inside. Ginny notes that cities are full of murder. On this sinister note, Jess leaves and evening comes to an end.
The story of the woman and the ex is important because it reminds us that these characters regard cities as places of danger, and consider their land and family as a site of trust and love. It also brings up themes of revenge and violence which have connections to the rest of the novel.