The next evening, Jess comes for dinner again. Rose, Ginny has heard, will be out of town tomorrow to pick up Linda and Pammy from boarding school. Ginny invites Rose and Pete over, and everyone—Ty, Ginny, Rose, Pete, and Jess—plays a game of Monopoly. Everyone has a great time: Jess and Pete tell stories, and Jess’s presence in particular seems to cheer everyone up.
The passage introduced one of the key symbols of the novel: the game of Monopoly. In the books, Monopoly is a symbol for the characters’ repressed greed or selfishness. While it’s impolite for the characters to talk about money upfront, they channel their greed and selfishness through a game.
Pete plays Monopoly aggressively, spending all his money on property instead of saving it. Ginny notices that Pete can be a lot of fun: he tells goofy stories about hitchhiking as a teenager, and he sings songs nobody’s heard in years.
As the family spends more time in each other’s company, they begin to bond. Ginny realizes that even Pete, whom she’s always regarded as an outsider, is a likable guy (she seems to have forgiven him for breaking her sister’s arm, suggesting that Ginny is strangely accepting of abuse).
One night, Jess comes over for Monopoly with Rose and Pete, and says that Harold is planning to remodel his house using concrete in the kitchen—a plan that everyone finds absurd. The next day, Ginny sees that Larry has ordered expensive new doors and cabinets for his own kitchen, but has nowhere to put them, and so stores them outside in the sun. Ginny laughs, thinking that her father must be competing with Harold Clark yet again. She notices that the cabinets cost over a thousand dollars.
Harold and Larry continue their crazed competition: whenever Harold buys anything, Larry has to top it with a big purchase of his own. For the time being, Ginny and Rose don’t care about Larry’s purchases—now that their hold on his money is secure, they don’t care what he does. And yet it’s important to notice the way Ginny notes Larry’s expenses; she’s still counting his money, and becoming a little more possessive.
One night, Larry comes to Ginny’s for dinner and Ty mentions that it’s going to rain soon. Ginny asks what Larry will do about his wooden cabinets, but Larry angrily says that he’ll leave them outside in the rain, and adds that he’ll leave the tractor out in the rain, too. When Ginny tries to tell Larry to store his possessions inside, Larry yells for Ginny to leave him alone.
Larry is becoming increasingly unstable and erratic—instead of taking care of his own possessions (with the expectation that he’ll pass them down to his children one day), he abuses his cabinets and tractor. It’s as if Larry has no more reason to live: he’s already passed on his possessions, meaning that he has no more “use” in life. (And Ginny and Rose aren’t exactly going out of their way to spend time with him.)
At Monopoly night, Ginny and Rose talk about Larry’s expensive, irresponsible orders, and Rose notes that Ginny is “running out of money”—in the Monopoly game. Pammy, who’s come over for Monopoly with her sister, Linda, and their mother (Rose), asks Ginny if Larry is “crazy,” but Ginny assures her that he’s fine. Ginny tells Pammy that Larry isn’t anywhere near as scary as he used to be. Later in the evening, Rose suggests to Ginny that Larry is getting Alzheimer’s, and the sisters agree that he’s “out of control.”
Notice the subtle way Smiley conveys Ginny and Rose’s greed by talking about Monopoly. When Rose says Ginny is “running out of money,” she’s talking about the game, but of course, she’s also talking about real life. Ginny and Rose seem afraid that Larry is spending their own money on useless items like cabinets; they’ve become increasingly obsessed with cash, to the point where they want to control their father’s behavior. This closely parallels King Lear, as Lear starts to go insane and Goneril and Regan grow increasingly cruel towards him. The real twist—which makes Rose and Ginny more sympathetic, and Larry less so—is yet to come.