Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Two weeks after the hearing, “it [is] clear that Mr. Richardson [is] not the only conflicted party.” The judge has still not made a decision in the case.
The moral difficulties of the case are causing the delay of its resolution, continuing the disruption in Shaker Heights.
Themes
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Lexie is due for a follow-up appointment at the clinic, and asks Mia to accompany her. Mia is surprised, but Pearl feels that there has been a reversal between herself and Lexie ever since Lexie’s abortion. After staying over, Lexie went home in one of Pearl’s t-shirt, and Pearl wound up in possession of the shirt Lexie had worn to the clinic; the shirts are like a spell, and Pearl now feels that she has some of Lexie’s confidence. She uses that confidence, even once the shirts are switched back days later, to invite Trip over to her house after school one afternoon while her mother works an extra shift at the Lucky Palace. Pearl tells Moody that she will be “helping her mother” with a project all afternoon, and she and Trip go back to the house on Winslow together. Pearl is thrilled to “lie down with [Trip] in a place of her own choosing.”
Lexie, just like Izzy, has begun to seek Mia out when she is in need of help, guidance, or emotional support. Pearl, meanwhile, continues to distance herself from her mother, entwining herself more and more with the Richardsons—especially Trip. The “reversal” that Pearl feels has occurred has grown out of her ever-growing confidence in her own identity, which she uses to further manipulate her relationship with Trip into being something that happens more and more on her own terms.
Themes
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Identity: Heritage, Assimilation, and Transience Theme Icon
Back at school, Tim Michaels confronts Moody, asking if he knows who his older brother’s “mystery girl” is. Moody returns home and finds Izzy there—she tells him that Mia is working at Lucky Palace, despite Pearl having told him that they were working together on a photography project at home. Moody becomes suspicious, and rides his bike over to Pearl’s house. He sees Trip’s car parked on the street, and then spots him and Pearl leaving the house together, holding hands. Moody rides home, upset and embarrassed. All of his fury is directed at Pearl.
Pearl’s deceit of Moody comes to a head, finally, as he discovers her and Trip’s secret. Moody is heartbroken, and experiences a major disruption in what he’d thought of Pearl. His anger with her comes from the shock of this disruption, and the realization that she is not who he thought she was. Notably he takes out his anger on Pearl, not Trip, reflecting some of the misogynistic values of his society that he takes for truth.
Themes
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon
Identity: Heritage, Assimilation, and Transience Theme Icon
Pearl, later that afternoon, goes to the Richardsons’ to talk to Moody. She attempts to apologize, but Moody is acidic and cruel, and tells Pearl that she is a “slut” who is only being used by Trip. Angry and hurt, Pearl tells Moody that she was the one who seduced Trip, and says “at least someone wants [her].” Moody begins to cry, and tells Pearl that he doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. As a result, the two of them stop talking altogether. They walk to school separately the next morning, and during algebra Moody peeks into Pearl’s backpack while she is in the bathroom, only to find that she has never even opened the notebook he gave her. He steals it back, brings it home, and rips the pages out into the trash. In the next few days, she does not notice it has gone missing, and “this hurt[s] him most of all.”
Pearl and Moody’s friendship devolves into anger, acidity, and cruelty. Pearl has come into her own identity with the help of all of the Richardsons, but so much of her confidence has come from her relationship with Trip. When Moody attempts to tear that confidence down in anger (and with sexist, belittle language), Pearl reacts just as angrily. Moody’s discovery of the unused notebook—and Pearl’s failure to realize it’s gone once he’s stolen it back—symbolizes the one-sided affection Moody felt for Pearl, and how it went unfulfilled and unrecognized for so long.
Themes
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon
Identity: Heritage, Assimilation, and Transience Theme Icon
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Lexie is having “romantic troubles of her own.” She has been “skittish” about sleeping with Brian in the wake of her abortion, and has not told him about the procedure. When he confronts her, they bicker, and Lexie tells him that she wants space—since they are heading to two different colleges, she says, things are “better this way.” Lexie, distraught and dazed, walks to the house on Winslow. She finds Izzy and Mia sitting at the kitchen table, and she sits with them and tells them that she and Brian have broken up. Mia makes tea, and Izzy comforts her in her own way—by helping her fold an origami crane.
Lexie’s ability to be confident in her desires and independent from her boyfriend has grown after her procedure. Making such an enormous decision forced her to grow up a little more quickly, and to be better prepared to make other crucial decisions about her own agency, identity, and future. However, Lexie’s life has experienced two major disruptions now, and she seems momentarily shell-shocked and unsure of herself. Yet once again she seeks comfort in Mia, not her own mother.
Themes
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Identity: Heritage, Assimilation, and Transience Theme Icon
The judge is still unable to make a decision, and Mrs. Richardson, visiting Mrs. McCullough at her home, asks if there is “anything else” she can think to tell the judge that might sway the case in her favor. Mrs. McCullough mentions that she thought Bebe looked pregnant a few months ago—she had gained weight and had thrown up on a visit with the social worker and May Ling—and then had suddenly seemed thinner a couple weeks later. Mrs. McCullough and Mrs. Richardson wonder if Bebe became pregnant and had an abortion—a scoop that would “turn public opinion against her,” effectively putting a nail in her coffin and ending the case entirely. Though Mrs. Richardson and Mrs. McCullough don’t know it, the narrator says, Bebe had gained weight from stress eating and then contracted food poisoning, losing all the excess weight she’d accrued.
Mrs. Richardson, a master manipulator, begins to put in motion yet another scheme to take down yet another woman who has shirked the social order and inhabited the role of disruptor—instead of Mia, her focus is now on Bebe Chow. The revelation that Bebe was never pregnant—Mrs. Richardson and Mrs. McCullough are simply searching for order and patterns, unable to account for any oddity or deviation—speaks to their manipulative, judgmental natures, but also Mrs. McCullough’s intense desperation to cling to her identity as a mother, which is not so different from what Bebe is going through.
Themes
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Identity: Heritage, Assimilation, and Transience Theme Icon
Mrs. Richardson, telling herself that she wants to help Mrs. McCullough win the case, begins “searching for evidence.” She contacts one of her old college roommates Elizabeth Manwill, who now works at the only clinic in town that provides abortions. She asks Elizabeth if she can take a look at the clinic’s records to search for a specific person and Elizabeth, offended, refuses. Mrs. Richardson, thinking that Elizabeth “owe[s] her a great deal” since Mrs. Richardson had helped to “transform” her into a great beauty in college, and had also introduced her to her husband, suggests that she and Elizabeth go out on a lunch date—she implies to Elizabeth that if she came to pick Elizabeth up to take her out and “just happened” to catch sight of the appointment records, Elizabeth would not have to do anything at all other than stand by. Elizabeth begrudgingly agrees.
Mrs. Richardson continues to manipulate everyone around her—next on her list is Elizabeth, a woman who Mrs. Richardson feels she has, in a way, “made.” Just as Mrs. Richardson attempts to control her daughters and make them fall into a regimented order, Mrs. Richardson now tries to get Elizabeth to play by her rules, too. Though Mrs. Richardson tells herself she is doing all of this for the altruistic purpose of helping Mrs. McCullough, she really just wants the chance to manipulate and control whoever she can in her desperate attempt to convince herself of the value of rules and the existence of a “right” way of doing things.
Themes
Order vs. Disruption Theme Icon
Altruism and Manipulation Theme Icon