The immediate effect of Ginny’s discovery that Rose is sleeping with Jess is that she thinks she understands everyone in her life now. In turn, she thinks of Larry, Caroline, Pete, Ty, and Rose. When she thinks of Rose, she imagines her sleeping with Jess, and imagines that she can smell Rose’s body. Ginny wonders if Jess lost interest in her because she’s unable to have children. Then, without warning, Ginny imagines Rose and Larry having sex—it’s unbearable, but she can’t stop.
Ginny continues to obsess over her own fertility: she seems to think of herself as a failure because of her inability to have a baby. Ginny seems jealous of Rose, Smiley suggests, because of her own insecurities about her fertility. Ginny’s jealousy will be the emotion that drives the final third of the novel.
Ginny also thinks back to the funeral, and her conversations with Jess. Jess was cheerful and friendly, but he felt like a stranger.
Ginny continues to desire Jess, but she’s rethinking everything about him now that she knows he slept with Rose.
Ty, Ginny realizes, is in a crisis. Without Pete and Larry to help him, he can’t harvest 1000 acres all by himself. He tries to find farmers who can help him with his work, but complains that there aren’t talented farmers to help him anymore.
As the book goes on, the farmland begins to decay, and no suitable farmers rise up to the challenge.
Ginny describes the various poisons lying around on the average farm. She tries to find an especially deadly poison, like arsenic, and explains that she was trying to kill Rose with it. After much research, she settles on hemlock for the murder, and thinks with some relish that her murder will be completely “premeditated.” She finds hemlock growing near a river, and cooks into a dish of sausage and sauerkraut. She then cans the dish and brings it over to Rose’s house, where she offers it as a surprise. While she’s at Rose’s house, she sees Jess. Although Ginny had previously found it hard to think about Jess, she now finds it easy to look him in the face and smile.
In this surprising section, Ginny tries to poison her sister by cooking hemlock into sausage. Some critics have complained that this “twist” in the plot is implausible and a little absurd—and perhaps they’re right, considering the previously close relationship the sisters shared, but it does echo the events of King Lear, where Goneril poisons Regan out of jealousy over Edmund. But Smiley has already suggested that Ginny’s highest priorities in life are escaping her father’s influence and having a child (and in a way, those two things are one and the same). Therefore, Rose, Ginny thinks, has destroyed Ginny’s chances for escape (by sleeping with Ginny’s lover)—a crime for which she must die.