Immediately after the events of the last chapter, Ginny goes to see Rose, where she finds her sister very drunk. Rose confesses to Ginny that she’s furious with Pete for traumatizing their children. Rose insists on cleaning the house, even though it’s very late at night.
Rose’s immediate response to Pete’s death is not sadness, but rather a feeling she is more accustomed to: anger. Despite the fact that she never shows real affection for her kids, she’s angry that Pete has traumatized them.
Rose and Ginny walk outside, and Rose admits that her marriage to Pete was sad, even after he stopped beating her. She slept with other men, and has been sleeping with Jess lately. She confesses that she hoped her lovers could “supersede Daddy.” Rose explains that she’s been sleeping with Jess for almost a month, and that she’s in love. Ginny carefully tells Rose that she should be cautious: Jess “probably” has many other lovers. Rose tells Ginny that she told Pete about Jess just a week before he died. Bizarrely, Pete’s response to the news that his wife was sleeping with Jess was that he wanted to kill Larry.
Rose and Pete had a sad marriage (which was already clear, considering that Pete beat her). The passage is important because it confirms something Smiley has already hinted at: Rose and Ginny partially choose lovers in order to replace Larry. Their memories of being raped by their father are so traumatic that they can’t conceive of sex without thinking of their father. It’s interesting that Rose spills the beans on Jess here: just like Ginny, she thinks of Jess as a welcome alternative to Larry’s influence. (And in a way, Pete’s reaction when he hears the news is perfectly appropriate: without Larry’s abuse, Rose would never have begun sleeping with Jess.)
Rose reminds Ginny that Larry used to beat them and have sex with them. As Ginny remembers the way Larry would beat her with all his strength, she finds the courage to tell Rose the truth: she’s been sleeping with Jess, too. Rose smiles and says that she knew: Jess slept with Ginny before he began sleeping with Rose. Ginny is secretly hurt, especially when Rose insists that Jess loves her and only her. Ginny accuses Rose of taking everything for herself, and Rose agrees, smirking. Ginny thinks of Pete drowning, and guesses that his last thoughts were of Rose “crushing him.”
The chapter implies a strange connection between Larry and Jess. On a psychological level, Rose and Ginny seem to desire Jess because he’s not Larry—i.e., because he symbolizes everything that Larry stands against. To sleep with Jess is to escape from Larry; to start again with a new lover. Ginny, as usual, expresses her sympathy in a more straightforward way than her sister does—thus, she pities Pete. This scene is also crucial, of course, in that it reveals another vital plot twist—Jess has been sleeping with both sisters, and both are in love with him. His façade of innocence is slipping.