Josie, Klara, and the Mother go to Mr. Capaldi’s studio. The Mother is tense because the Father is coming to see Josie. The Father is late arriving in his taxi.
The Father’s late appearance in the story suggests that he has not been a major presence in Josie’s life since he left.
At last, the Father arrives. He gives Josie a present: a small mirror that shows her face how it actually looks, not in reverse like most mirrors. The Mother interjects to introduce Klara, and the Father greets Klara curtly. The Mother insists they all have to hurry along, or they’ll be late for the appointment with Mr. Capaldi.
The mirror is an interesting contrast to all of the windows in the book, since a mirror helps people see themselves rather than the outside world. Although the Mother claimed earlier to be on good terms with the father, this passage makes it clear that perhaps things are a little more tense than she was willing to let on.
In the car, the Father and the Mother argue about their careers and about the portrait. Meanwhile, Klara notices that they’re near her old store, and she sees the Cootings Machine, which is still spewing pollution. As it turns out, the store has moved somewhere else. Josie promises they can find the store’s new location tomorrow. Before going in to meet Mr. Capaldi, the Mother reminds Klara that he will have a couple questions for her.
The Mother seems to be deliberately keeping Klara in the dark about something—perhaps this also explains why they left Melania Housekeeper behind. The disappearance of the AF store suggests that the setting Klara grew up in, which seemed so permanent at the time, may have only been a temporary trend in the grand scheme of things.
Klara, Josie, the Mother, and the Father enter Mr. Capaldi’s house. The Mother asks to see the portrait, and Mr. Capaldi agrees, but when Josie also asks to see, he refuses. The Father asks why, but Mr. Capaldi just explains that it makes the portrait worse if the subject gets too self-conscious by seeing the results early. The Father says he’d like to finish up quickly, so he can go alone with Josie to get a meal.
The Father and the Mother clearly seem to disagree over whatever it is that Mr. Capaldi is doing. Though Klara does not let on that she knows what’s happening here, she later reveals that she did guess what the “portrait” of Josie might really be.
Mr. Capaldi says he has a questionnaire for Klara to answer. He leads Klara to a separate room. While he does, they can hear the Father and the Mother having an argument about something being “not consistent.” Klara begins the questionnaire.
The questionnaire for Klara makes it clear that Klara plays a much larger role in Mr. Capaldi’s work than anyone has told her. Though Klara doesn’t comment on it, she seems to already understand this on some level.
The questionnaire starts with questions that need very short answers but moves to questions that require longer answers. As she’s doing the assignment, she notices Mr. Capaldi leading the Father somewhere on the opposite balcony. The Father looks suddenly ill. They go into a room, and when the Father comes out, he looks not ill but angry.
This passage hints that the Father finally saw the “portrait,” confirming his bad feelings about it. Klara describes the whole situation in a matter-of-fact manner and from an observational distance, even though she likely has her own feelings about what’s going on.
Klara overhears the Father, the Mother, and Mr. Capaldi arguing, with the Father taking issue with Mr. Capaldi’s ethics. Klara gets up and goes to the other side of the balcony. She goes through a door, using a code she watched Mr. Capaldi input. Inside, she sees something that looks like Josie suspended in the air. While it has a very close resemblance to Josie, small details like the hair suggest that it’s not the real thing.
Klara just happens to casually mention that she watched Mr. Capaldi enter a code and then used it to trespass in his building. This suggests that not only has Klara started to keep secrets (about her beliefs on the Sun), but also that she has learned how to be deceptive. Klara discovers something that has already been strongly hinted: that the “portrait” is actually a replica of Josie, perhaps even one that could replace her after death.
Klara carefully goes back to where she was and finds the mood is even more tense. The Father is trying to make Josie leave immediately. Mr. Capaldi says to just let them go, so they leave without Klara. With them gone, the Mother confesses that she had misgivings about Josie’s “portrait” even before the Father raised objections. Mr. Capaldi tries to reassure her.
The Father wants Josie to leave because he doesn’t want her to see the “portrait,” likely because he believes it would frighten her and make her think of her own death. The Father seems to disapprove in general of the portrait, but it isn’t clear whether he is being more realistic (by realizing it isn’t possible to replace Josie) or less realistic (by refusing to confront the possibility of Josie’s death).
Mr. Capaldi invites Klara down. He asks if he is doing a good job. Klara says yes, the “portrait” (meaning the lifeless Artificial Friend replica of Josie) looks accurate. She confirms that she completed the questionnaire and has stored the answers. The Mother asks Klara to describe what she thought she saw.
The humans seem unsurprised that Klara was able to sneak a look at the “portrait”-in-progress of Josie. Mr. Capaldi in particular seems to believe strongly in the capabilities of AFs.
Klara explains that for a while, she suspected that Mr. Capaldi’s “portrait” was not a painting but in fact an AF. She confirms that it looks accurate but suggests narrower hips. The Mother still seems doubtful and mentions how things didn’t work out in the past with Sal.
This passage confirms that Klara isn’t always straightforward with the reader and that sometimes she realizes things without immediately stating them in the narration.
Mr. Capaldi suggests that what they did in the past with Sal was much less advanced, no more than a “bereavement doll.” What he’s working on currently is something that actually will be Josie, a true continuation of her. The Mother doubts whether she’ll ever be able to believe that.
This passage explains the strange scene that Miss Helen witnessed earlier from her window. The exact form of the “bereavement doll” Mr. Capaldi created for the Mother isn’t specified, but apparently it was life-sized and looked realistic from a distance.
Klara interrupts to suggest that they might not even need the new Josie. But she also says that she understands why she’s been asked to observe Josie so closely, and that she will use everything she’s learned to train the new Josie to be as much like the old Josie as possible.
Klara has an optimistic personality, perhaps motivated by her growing faith in the power of the Sun to influence humanity. Nevertheless, she also has a practical side and remains devoted to her duty, even when doing so is difficult.
Mr. Capaldi and the Mother confess that the real purpose of the day’s appointment has more to do with Klara than it did with Josie. Mr. Capaldi explains that he’s not asking Klara to train a new Josie but in fact, to become her. Mr. Capaldi believes his survey will give scientific proof that Klara is qualified to continue as Josie. The Mother concludes by saying that she’s still on board but needs a break for the day. The Mother drives away with Klara, saying that they have things to discuss.
It is unclear at this point whether Capaldi is actually a gifted and idealistic scientist or whether he is a fraud who is trying to dupe the Mother with pseudoscientific proof—the Father and Melania Housekeeper seem to believe the latter. The Mother herself seems to have doubts but remains convinced, which perhaps reflects her desperation more than it reflects genuine faith in Mr. Capaldi
The Mother drives Klara to outside the burger place where Josie and the Father are, but the Mother decides that Josie and the Father could use some time together. The Mother says that, ultimately, it’s not Mr. Capaldi asking Klara to be Josie but the Mother herself. She blames herself for Josie’s illness—she got sick as a result of being lifted. The Father was against the idea of Josie being lifted, since Sal had already died.
The Mother opens up to Klara, showing that she increasingly views Klara as something like a person. This raises a difficult ethical question for the Mother—on the one hand, she wants an AF who can act enough like a human to replace Josie, but on the other hand, it could be cruel to force an AF with its own identity to become someone else.
Klara asks what will happen to her current body if she becomes Josie. The Mother says that shouldn’t matter. What’s more, if she becomes Josie, Klara will get not only the mother’s love, but also Rick’s.
Though the Mother has clearly considered the ethical questions of “continuing” Josie, ultimately, she seems to place her own concerns over any potential objections that Klara might have to the arrangement.
The Mother goes into the hamburger restaurant, then the Father comes out without Josie. The Father tells Klara that the Mother recommended they drive around. The Father admits that his conversation with Josie was tense because he had to lie to Josie, which he isn’t very good at doing.
The Father believes that he knows what’s best for Josie, but he finds himself humbled when he actually spends time with Josie and realizes how difficult it is to find the right things to say to her.
The Father begins to drive Klara around, asking if there’s anywhere particular place she’d like to go—like, for instance, her old store. Klara agrees to see the old store. While they drive, the Father asks Klara if she believes in human hearts and if she thinks it’s possible to learn one. Klara thinks it would be difficult, but if it’s the best way to save Josie, Klara is willing to attempt it.
The Father doesn’t seem to know quite what to make of Klara—he doesn’t see her as fully human in the way that children like Josie and Rick do, but he also doesn’t feel comfortable giving orders like the Mother does. His hesitant and distant relationship with Klara seems to mirror his relationship with Josie.
As they approach the location of the old store, Klara admits that she isn’t really there to see the store. She talks about destroying the Cootings Machine to stop its pollution. Since the Father is an engineer, Klara wonders if he can help. The Father is confused, but Klara says she can’t explain more, just that she believes it will help Josie.
While Klara generally prefers to keep her plans secret, she brings the Father into her conspiracy to destroy the Cootings Machine. Perhaps after she fell and needed Rick’s help on the way to Mr. McBain’s barn, she has become more realistic about her own abilities.
The Father is still confused, but he agrees to help Klara disable the Cootings Machine. They make it to the machine. The Father mentions that even though he wasn’t able to explain to the Mother why he hates Mr. Capaldi, he’d like to try to explain to Klara. Part of him is afraid that Capaldi is actually correct—that there’s nothing special about Josie and that she can be perfectly copied. Klara says she understands, and that this just means the solution is to heal Josie so that the portrait won’t even matter.
The Father’s decision to help Klara could reflect open-mindedness or it could simply reflect his own desperation and feelings of helplessness, leaving him open to all suggestions. Because Klara is both like a person and not quite like a person, the Father feels more comfortable explaining his thinking to her than he did for the Mother.
The Father finally explains that there is a substance called P-E-G Nine that can be put into the Cootings Machine to break it. He explains that Klara actually has P-E-G Nine inside her head, and that she could perhaps still function with only half her supply, but he doesn’t recommend it. Nevertheless, Klara wants to go ahead with it.
It is possible to read this section and be suspicious of the Father’s motives, since sabotaging Klara would also sabotage the Mother’s plans with Mr. Capaldi, although this would arguably be out of character for him, since there is nothing else to suggest that he’s particularly devious, and he himself says there would be easier ways to sabotage Klara, if he really wanted to.
The Father warns that, if there is any impact related to removing P-E-G Nine from Klara, it will be cognitive. Klara maintains that she wants to do it. They sabotage the Cootings Machine and then meet the Mother, Josie, Rick, and Miss Helen at a sushi café. Everyone seems happy, although Josie is quiet.
Klara’s willingness to potentially compromise her own system just to help Josie shows both how deeply she cares about Josie as well as how deeply she has bought into her new Sun-based spirituality.
Miss Helen gives Rick advice about what to do when he meets Vance, her old flame with connections to Atlas Brookings, the college that accepts some unlifted students. Miss Helen tells the Father that she’s worried about meeting Vance again because she used to be passionate with him for years.
Miss Helen seems to take pride in having found a way to help her son, so much so that she even brags about it, even though the means of helping Rick are unconventional and not certain to work.
Miss Helen suggests that the Father and Vance might get along because they both have fascistic leanings. The Father tries to explain that it’s not like that, even though after losing his job, he moved to a community where people are heavily armed to defend against other groups. Miss Helen partly apologizes. They all wait for Vance.
The story only provides a few details about the Father’s life outside of Josie. It is unclear if Josie’s father is actually a fascist, but it does seem that he lives in some sort of isolated community where people are heavily armed to keep out outside threats, whether real or imagined. This, in turn, indicates that life outside of the specific area where Josie lives is difficult and potentially dangerous.
The Father, Josie, Klara, Miss Helen, and Ricky all leave the sushi café. The Sun is nearly setting, and Klara doesn’t think it will send any special help that day. They spot the Mother on the phone nearby. They are all waiting outside a theater for Vance to come meet Rick. Klara overhears the Father hanging back, still complaining about being called a fascist. He says that Miss Helen herself might not be living in such a peaceful area soon.
The fact that all the characters wait for Vance outside a theater foreshadows how the meeting with Vance will be a sort of performance with the goal of convincing Vance to help Rick with his education. Again, Klara does not have enough information to know whether the Father is being realistic or paranoid with his talk of danger.
When they have a moment, Rick asks Klara what’s going on with Josie, whose behavior seems strange. Klara says she doesn’t know but reassures Rick that he has completed the task she began in McBain’s barn. Rick is happy but still doesn’t understand. Klara is having vision problems and takes longer to recognize the shapes of people.
Though Josie’s parents have been trying to protect her from what’s going on, the way she started crying in the middle of the night at the end of Part Three illustrates that on some level she is aware of the dangers she faces.
Josie tells Klara that they met a server at the restaurant who remembers her old store, but it turns out that the server doesn’t know where it moved or if it moved at all.
The server’s comment shows the ephemeral nature of big cities and how the place that shaped Klara’s first days of consciousness is now barely even remembered.
The Mother and Miss Helen talk while they wait for Vance to come out for Rick, which is taking a while. The Mother asks if Miss Helen regrets not lifting Rick, and Miss Helen says she does, despite all the trouble it has caused for the Mother.
Miss Helen and the Mother’s conversation about lifting shows that each acknowledges how hard it was for the other one to make their decision, and that for decisions with such big consequences, there may not ever be an easy answer.
Just then, the Father comes up to the Mother and asks if she told Josie everything. The Mother admits that she told Josie that the portrait wasn’t a painting. She says she didn’t tell Josie everything, but that Josie is old enough to remember Sal’s doll and to figure some things out for herself.
Unlike the Father, who was able to withhold the truth from Josie, albeit uneasily, the Mother ultimately told her about how the portrait was really an AF. The Mother makes mistakes with Josie, but she is also better suited to have difficult conversations.
Finally, Vance comes out. He and Rick greet each other politely. Meanwhile, a woman outside the theater gets angry because she thinks Klara is going to be taking up one of the seats. The woman eventually goes away, and Klara overhears Josie asking the Mother to make sure that Klara will get sole use of her room. Her mother says they don’t need to think about that, since maybe it won’t even happen that way.
The angry reaction of the random woman at the theater suggests that outside of Klara’s bubble, some people have very negative opinions of AFs. The scene suggests that in the future, people might one day be bigoted against robots.
Miss Helen comes and announces that she’ll be taking Klara because the Mother has to go back and have a private conversation with Josie. Josie whispers in Klara’s ear to reassure her that it’s OK to go. As she walks away with Rick’s family, she begins to regain some of her orientation.
While it previously seemed like everyone was trying to shield Josie from harsh truths, now it’s Klara who is being excluded from big conversations, perhaps in preparation for the possibility that Klara might one day have to “continue” Josie.
Rick, Miss Helen, and Vance all get a booth at a restaurant, and Klara sits at a booth across the aisle. Rick tells Vance about how he’s very generous and how his mother has always spoken well of him. He explains how he has a talent for engineering, like making drones, and that he’s trying to get a place at Atlas Brookings. Vance cautions that he chairs the scholarship committee and that Atlas Brookings doesn’t show favoritism, but Rick says he only wants help if he’s deserving of a place.
Klara’s position at a separate booth suggests her second-class status—it might also be an attempt to appease Vance. On another note, although Rick hasn’t been lifted, he seems to have a natural talent for saying exactly what he needs to say in an interview setting, thus suggesting that it’s still possible to be naturally intelligent in a world in which everyone else has received artificial cognitive advantages.
Rick shows Vance his notebook of drone schematics, some of which he has already created but many of which he’s planning to create. Vance asks if his drones, which look like birds, have surveillance capabilities. Rick says yes, but that they could be used for good purposes, like security. Vance asks if there are potential ethical issues with this surveillance, and Rick says that’s up for regulators to decide, which pleases Vance.
Rick’s answers here seem to show either naivety or a willingness to say whatever he needs to say to please Vance. It is obvious that Rick’s drones could be used to spy on people or even attack them with weapons, but Rick argues that a creator doesn’t have responsibility for how his creation gets used.
Vance says Rick has done well, but that because there are so many unlifted applicants to Atlas Brookings, after hopeless prospect students are weeded out, it becomes a lottery. He asks again what Rick is doing with him if he doesn’t want favoritism, suddenly changing the mood. Rick is surprised, but Miss Helen intervenes to say that they are asking for favoritism, even as Rick tries to object.
Vance’s sudden shift in mood is difficult to understand. It does not seem that anything Rick said set him off, so it seems more likely that Vance went into the meeting with his mind already made up. It soon becomes clear that this meeting might have less to do with Rick and Vance and more to do with the old relationship of Miss Helen and Vance.
Vance says this is a problem, both because Miss Helen has openly acknowledged the favoritism and because it’s her asking, not Rick. He says it’s also a problem that Helen didn’t communicate with him for 27 years. Miss Helen says she treated him poorly but also that she treated everyone poorly back then.
Though Vance blames Miss Helen for bringing up favoritism, it seems likely that Vance was never interested in giving Rick a chance and that the meeting was always a chance for him to settle an old score with Miss Helen.
Vance says Miss Helen used to be like a queen, and that he’s both sad and glad to see that she hasn’t been able to keep it up forever. Miss Helen asks what’s so terrible about her current life. Vance says it’s that she’s become fragile. Helen agrees and begs forgiveness. Vance isn’t satisfied with her apology, which he feels is too broad and vague. He rehashes specific things she did to embarrass him.
Vance relishes the opportunity to humiliate Miss Helen after having been out of contact with her for 27 years. This passage shows how even people in positions of power can get hung up on details from the distant past—though there are cases where Miss Helen didn’t treat Vance well, they also happened quite a long time ago, well before Rick was even born.
Rick interrupts to say that maybe they should leave and that maybe he doesn’t actually want Vance’s help. Miss Helen says Rick doesn’t know what he’s saying. Vance agrees maybe it’s best to leave. He tells Rick he likes him and his drawings, then leaves.
With Vance, Rick sees the true nature of prestige and respectability, witnessing how powerful men often use their authority to become petty score-settlers. This causes him to be less interested in seeking that sort of life for himself.
Rick asks Klara to come sit with him and Miss Helen. Miss Helen wonders if that was enough to satisfy Vance. Rick says he’d never have come if he’d known that’s how things would go. Klara wonders if Vance and Miss Helen were ever as gentle as Rick and Josie, or if Rick and Josie might ever become as unkind as Vance and Miss Helen. Miss Helen asks Klara what she thinks, and Klara tells her she believes Vance will help Rick.
Rick generally has positive feelings about Klara, and so the fact that he made her sit at another table while Vance was there reflects how he was willing to compromise his principles and try to become someone else for the sake of pleasing Vance. He regrets compromising his integrity, particularly because it seems like he won’t even gain anything from it.
The Mother comes back and finds the group’s booth. The Mother has left Josie alone at the apartment where they’re staying, and so she’s anxious to get back. She drives Rick and Miss Helen to their hotel and then goes back to the apartment, where Josie is asleep. Klara tells the Mother that it’s possible to hope that things might get better when the Sun rises tomorrow. The Mother warns Klara that she just had a strange conversation with Josie and that, because of this, Klara shouldn’t pay too much attention if Josie wakes up and says anything strange.
As the Mother becomes more comfortable speaking openly with Josie, she also becomes more comfortable opening up to Klara. While the trip to the city causes many characters to lash out at each other, there is also some benefit, since the characters are finally being honest and speaking their minds to each other.
Josie stirs when Klara comes into her room. She is half asleep but starts to wake up. She tells Klara that the Mother offered to quit her job so that she could always be with Josie, but Josie told her she wanted to keep Klara. Klara wonders if the Mother was just trying to make Josie feel less lonely, but Josie says it was just a bad idea that’s not going to happen anyway.
The Mother’s offer to quit her job is a tacit admission that Josie may not have long left to live, and so might soon need hospice-like care. Josie’s decision to rely on Klara shows both how important Klara has become to Josie as well as a mature acknowledgment from Josie about how difficult it would be to place such a large burden on her mom.
The Mother, Josie, Klara, Rick, and Miss Helen all drive back from the city. Miss Helen says she’s more hopeful than before that Vance will help and speculates more about his motivations. The Mother suggests to Helen that she and Rick did their best, so they may as well just wait and see.
Miss Helen holds on to the hope that Vance will help them, perhaps because she is unwilling to accept the idea that she wasn’t able to provide Rick with the type of life she wanted for him.
As the car keeps going, Klara is disappointed to notice there is another Cootings Machine, even bigger, that creates more pollution than the first one. The Mother says there are probably other options for Rick if Atlas Brookings doesn’t work out, but Josie asks if she’ll be allowed to follow Rick there. The Mother says young people can keep in touch. Klara is disappointed and believes that the new Cootings Machine is why the Sun didn’t intervene to help Josie.
The return of the Cootings Machine recalls the fall and rise of Beggar Man earlier in the novel. The new, bigger Cootings Machine seems to suggest that efforts to improve the environment by reducing pollution often feel ineffective because of the sheer amount of opposition. While Klara is accepting this hard reality, Josie gets used to the reality that she and Rick might end up on different paths as they move into adulthood.