Later that day, Bernice realizes just how badly she had been tricked when her Aunt Josephine remarks, aghast, that her bobbed hair will offend Mrs. Deyo, who is holding a dance for Bernice and Marjorie before the former’s departure. Mrs. Deyo detests bobbed hair so much that she “devoted fifteen minutes” of speaking time to it, in a paper on “The Foibles of the Younger Generation” that she read before the Thursday Club. Mrs. Harvey chides Bernice, “Oh, Bernice, what’ll your mother say? She’ll think I let you do it.” The rest of the evening passes miserably. Bernice fails to style her bob, receives “faintly hostile” comments from her uncle, and fails to entertain the boys who visit her that evening.
Perhaps the strongest symbol of the generational divide at work in this story is Mrs. Deyo and her article. The title is laughably over-formal, given the subject matter—and the very fact that Mrs. Deyo spent 15 minutes of a serious speech about the immorality of bobbed hair is, frankly, ridiculous. The absurdity of it illustrates just how far removed these middle-aged people are from their teenage daughters’ lives. The hostility Bernice receives from her family further drives this point: they see her haircut as a direct offense against them, instead of seeing any of the pressure Bernice felt to conform to popular trends.
Smugly and insincerely, Marjorie insists that the haircut looks fine—but after the girls bid each other good night, “something snapped within Bernice.” Immediately she packs her bags and plans her departure home for that very night, writing a brief letter to Mrs. Harvey to explain her reasons for going. Smoothly, with confidence, she calculates the time needed to reach the train station by walking and then taking a taxi cab.
This moment stands in direct contrast to Bernice’s meltdown in Part III. Where before she feared adults’ disapproval, here she calmly explains herself to her aunt and shows no hesitation about returning home to her mother, despite her ugly new haircut.
Before Bernice leaves the house, “an expression flashed into her eyes that a practised character reader might have connected vaguely with the set look she had worn in the barber’s chair—somehow a development of it.” With set determination, she stealthily enters Marjorie’s bedroom. Making no sound, taking care not to wake Marjorie by her touch, she snips off her cousin’s pigtails with scissors, ruining her hair just as her own was ruined. Feeling “oddly happy and exuberant,” Bernice steps off the porch and leaves for home—and as she passes Warren McIntyre’s house, she tosses Marjorie’s braids onto his porch. “Scalp the selfish thing!” she giggles, as she “set[s] off at a half-run down the moonlit street.”
Childish though it is, Bernice’s revenge on Marjorie is not only well-earned, but predicated on her new confidence and willpower. Like Marjorie, Bernice now has the strength and social savvy of a young adult—but unlike Marjorie, she uses this power in just, discerning ways, even if they are not completely mature. It seems that the loss of her hair and status has allowed Bernice to embrace the “unfeminine” parts of herself which previously she refused to acknowledge as good.