It’s dinnertime at Finch’s house. Though Finch’s mom asks Decca what she learned first, Finch asks if he can go first. His mom looks nervous. Finch says he learned that there’s good in the world, that not everyone is disappointing, and a “bump in the ground” can feel taller than anything if you’re with the right person. Finch’s mom says that’s interesting. After dinner, Finch observes that his mom looks “dazed and disconcerted,” as usual. He feels bad for her since Finch’s dad broke her heart and destroyed her self-worth, so he offers to do the dishes. She’s always tired now that she’s working two jobs.
Just like Violet, Finch’s outlook is beginning to change as a result of their budding relationship. Finch, for once, isn’t thinking about dying—rather, he seems to imply that life seems worth living. But when Finch mentions that not everyone is disappointing, this suggests that he feels so hopeless sometimes because he doesn’t have the support he craves. Given his mom’s half-hearted, confused response, readers can infer that she’s probably one of the people he finds disappointing, even though he loves her.
Just as Finch puts on his shoes to go for a run, icy sleet starts to fall. He decides to take a bath instead. It’s hard to squeeze into the tub since he’s twice as long as it is, but he puts his feet up the wall until his head is totally underwater. He pretends he’s in a lake. For Finch, water is peaceful and safe. Everything—including his racing thoughts—slows down. Finch’s mind drifts to Virginia Woolf. In 1941, after her third breakdown, she wrote a note to her husband, filled her pockets with rocks, and drowned in the river.
Finch’s relationship to water is complex. It’s peaceful, it helps him feel more in control, and he seems to genuinely enjoy swimming and water. But he also shows here that he likes water in part for the fact that it could kill him, just as it killed Virginia Woolf. Importantly, Finch also seems intrigued by Woolf’s suicide note in particular—it’s the same one that Finch quoted to Violet on Facebook in Chapter 8.
Finch’s lungs begin to burn. He’s not sure how long he’s been underwater, but it’s been several minutes at least. He thinks about the man who holds the world record for holding his breath the longest (22 minutes and 22 seconds). As he thinks about Woolf’s suicide note to her husband, particularly the part where she says that if anyone could’ve saved her it would’ve been him, Finch sits up out of the water. He’s glad no one can see him. He doesn’t feel a rush that he survived—he’s just empty and out of breath.
The way that Finch describes feeling after coming up out of the water implies that he expected to feel powerful and in-control after this experience. Instead, he finds himself exhausted and struggling to breathe so he can stay alive. With this, Finch has to confront that water might make him feel powerful sometimes—but it also has the ability to make him feel powerless and meaningless.