American Gods

American Gods

American Gods Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At the start of the chapter appears the so-called “old saying”: “Every hour wounds. The last one kills.” The receptionist at the Motel America gives Shadow his key and reluctantly agrees to call up to Mr. Wednesday’s room, though she regards Shadow with suspicion. Wednesday comes to Shadow in the lobby and leads him to the room where Wednesday is staying, which is covered with maps of America with sites highlighted in bright colors. Mr. Wednesday asks about the funeral, then nods in approval when Shadow doesn’t want to talk about it. Shadow explains that he was hijacked by a kid in a limo, and Mr. Wednesday says he knows the boy. Shadow goes back to his room to get some sleep, thinking that he can go tomorrow to take care of Laura’s things and their old apartment.
Gaiman seems to have borrowed this saying from a list of sayings on old sundials. In this context, it suggests that the gods get weaker over time rather than more powerful—and in general, time is a brutal and relentless force for everyone. Shadow’s appearance again makes him seem like a villain, though he’s not actually doing anything wrong, and indeed was just the victim of a crime. Wednesday pays no attention to Shadow’s physical or emotional distress after his capture by Technical Boy, simply accepting that Shadow will make these sacrifices for him. Shadow is still holding on to his old life, hoping to pick up the pieces where he left off rather than looking to new things.
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Back in his own room, Shadow draws himself a bath, even though he is too big for the tub, trying to keep his promises to himself about his plan after prison. Shadow lies in bed, thinking that this is his first bed as a free man, but he finds no joy in the thought. To distract himself from thinking about the bed he used to share with Laura, Shadow runs through coin tricks in his head. He likes the physical process of manipulating the coins, though he does not have the personality or storytelling skills to be a truly great magician. Yet thoughts of Audrey telling him how Laura died keep intruding. The saying, “Every hour wounds. The last one kills,” runs through his head. Shadow smiles, thinking that if he bottles up his feelings long enough, soon he won’t feel anything.
Shadow follows through on his promises, even about something as small as a bath, because it is the only thing left connecting him to his old life. Shadow has no flair for misdirection: the small lies necessary to make people look in the wrong place during a trick. His honesty seems especially notable in contrast to Laura’s lies. Yet instead of taking the philosophy that time heals all wounds, Shadow seems to identify with the hope that all these hurts will build up and eventually kill him. Shadow doesn’t want to take control over his own life—he just wants nothing.
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Finally, Shadow falls asleep. He dreams of walking through a room filled with statues, carvings, and images. Many have names in front of them: Leucotios, Hubur, Hershef, and others. As he backs away from a particularly disturbing image of a woman-like figure with two snakes coming out of her neck instead of a head, he hears a disembodied voice explain that these statues are the gods who have been forgotten except in historical accounts. As Shadow continues to walk through the room, the voice returns to explain that some of the gods are completely forgotten, without even a name. Though gods are harder to kill than humans, they can die unmourned and unremembered. Shadow begins to panic, then bolts awake.
Leucotios (most often spelled Loucetios) was a god identified with lightning in the Gallo Roman religion; Hubur was a creation goddess who gave birth to the cosmos in Babylonian belief; and Hershef was a ram god from the Nile region who was folded into the sun god Ra in the Egyptian pantheon. All of these represent gods who were once worshipped but are now considered relics of history. The snake-headed goddess may be Wadjet, a prophetess who became the goddess of Upper Egypt after Upper and Lower Egypt were united. Though the voice (which Shadow will later realize is Mr. Ibis) does not make it explicit, he hints at the fact that gods live on belief. Thus when humans no longer remember them, gods die.
Themes
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Shadow wakes up fully, then goes into the bathroom without turning on any lights. When he comes out he sees Laura’s silhouette, sitting on the side of his bed and wearing the suit she was buried in. Laura asks Shadow to sit beside her, but Shadow refuses until Laura explains about her and Robbie. Laura, smelling faintly of flowers and rot, asks sweetly for a cigarette. Shadow pulls on clothing and goes to the lobby to buy a pack.
Laura appears like the femme fatale in a noir mystery, ready to trip up the hero and push him into bad choices. Shadow clearly still loves her, rather than being afraid of a walking corpse, though the details that Gaiman shares about her clothing and her scent make it obvious that Laura is actually dead. Laura’s pull over Shadow is still strong, as he goes to get her cigarettes with no questions – but he is starting to assert his own needs by asking Laura to explain about Robbie.
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Shadow gets back to his room and finds Laura still on the bed. He passes her the cigarettes and a book of matches. She lights one and takes a drag, but says that she can’t feel anything. Laura apologizes for getting her Puppy mixed up in “it” and letting him go to prison, but Shadow reminds her that he could have said no. Shadow idly realizes he is not afraid of Laura, though she is effectively a walking corpse, and Laura begins to explain about her and Robbie.
Aside from controlling the small details of Shadow’s life, it seems as though Laura was the one who actually came up with the so-far unexplained crime that put Shadow in jail. Shadow knows that he doesn’t assert his own agency, refusing to blame Laura for something that was ultimately due to his own passivity. He is so indifferent about his life that he even seems comfortable talking to a dead person.
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Laura tells Shadow that she was lonely while Shadow was in jail, and that the sex with Robbie was good. Shadow winces, and Laura apologizes, saying that it’s hard to remember which things matter when you’re dead. She assures Shadow that she was never going to leave him, though she had been having an affair with Robbie for two years. She recounts the night that she died, explaining that she was very drunk as they drove home and wanted to give Robbie a “goodbye” blowjob now that Shadow was coming home. She knocked the gearshift with her shoulder and Robbie couldn’t get it back in gear as they swerved and eventually crashed.
Shadow is capable of being hurt, though he usually doesn’t show it. With Laura, he can afford to be more transparent about his feelings, since Laura is the person he used to trust most. Laura, in her own way, believes that she is as loyal to Shadow as he is to her, as she wasn’t planning on leaving Shadow for good. Yet Laura’s lies still get her in incredible trouble—she wouldn’t have gotten in the car crash if she weren’t having an illicit affair with her husband’s best friend.
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Shadow smells burning plastic and realizes that Laura’s cigarette has burned down to the filter. He takes the cigarette butt from Laura’s hand and throws it out the window. Shadow reminds Laura that she is dead and shouldn’t be visiting him. Laura tells Shadow that she is going to protect him now. Then she thanks him for her “present.” When Shadow questions what present, Laura pulls the large gold coin out of her pocket. She then gets up to kiss Shadow goodbye. Laura rises on tiptoes, and Shadow tries to kiss her on the cheek, but Laura turns her head so that their lips meet. She tastes of cigarettes and bile. As Laura walks out, she tells Shadow that dead or not, he will eventually ask her to stay the night.
Shadow taking the cigarette filter subtly shifts him into a more assertive mode. The present that he gave Laura actually had the power to grant life—though no one knows yet how the gold coin works—and Laura is going to use that second chance at life to keep Shadow safe (so in a way, the coin is keeping Shadow safe via Laura). Her parting promise that Shadow will one day ask her to stay the night seems like a threat that Shadow will soon be so desperate for her love that he will even accept her like this.
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Laura leaves, with graveyard mud clinging to her shoes and the carpet. Shadow rushes over to Wednesday’s room and knocks on the door. Wednesday answers the door wearing a towel, and Shadow notices that the receptionist who checked him in is hiding in Wednesday’s bed. Shadow quickly explains that his dead wife just visited him, and Wednesday follows Shadow back to Shadow’s room. Shadow notices a white scar down Wednesday’s torso as Wednesday inspects the room and sniffs the air.
The graveyard mud is another sign that Laura is not some figment of Shadow’s imagination. Wednesday takes the news that a dead person visited in stride, as resurrection is simply par for the course in many tales of Norse mythology – Odin himself has died before, keeping the scar down his torso as a souvenir of being stabbed in the side. Wednesday uses sex as a way of making himself feel alive—another god using humans for his purpose.
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Shadow tells Wednesday that he’s ready to leave Eagle Point tomorrow. Wednesday happily agrees and goes back to the girl in his room. Shadow sits on his bed, wishing that he could mourn Laura without being troubled by her visit. He lies down, thinking of the early years of their marriage, and then cries the hardest he has in years.
With this disturbing visit from Laura, Shadow seems ready to let go of the past and move forward with Wednesday. Gaiman asserts that truly experiencing one’s emotions is better than bottling them up, as Shadow has a cathartic experience reliving the good memories with Laura, finally showing his emotions so that he can process them.
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