Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River The Throbbing Heart of News Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next morning, Reuben is carrying eggs from the barn when he sees a man on horseback up on the hill. He knows it's Davy and waves to the horseman. Davy doesn't wave back but turns his horse away. Reuben rushes to deliver the eggs to Swede and then return to Davy. Roxanna hears Reuben say he saw a horseman and says it's probably Lonnie Ford, a local rancher who runs cattle on the hill. Reuben doesn't tell either Swede or Roxanna that he knows it was Davy.
The sighting draws upon the visual language of Western movies. It also works to make some of Swede's imaginings about Davy's life on the run real. Like a historical desperado, he's traveling on horseback. The fictional West is becoming real and the line between fiction and reality is getting thinner and thinner.
Themes
Fiction, Reality, and the American West Theme Icon
Loyalty and Family Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
Reuben runs back outside, through the barn, and begins to climb the hill. He feels adventurous and imagines Swede later telling him that taking off after the possibility of Davy was heroic. Reuben wonders if it really was Lonnie Ford, and imagines several possibilities for what would happen if he came upon Mr. Ford. He describes them as "overbaked" and suggests that this is why Swede is the writer.
Again, though Reuben admires those who take control of stories and try to shape them, he finds that he's happier telling stories than making them up. This provides Reuben more credit as a narrator and as a witness; he's far more likely to be telling the truth, since his imaginings are self-described as overbaked.
Themes
Youth vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Fiction, Reality, and the American West Theme Icon
Loyalty and Family Theme Icon
Reuben reaches the horse's trail and decides to follow it, still imagining meeting Mr. Ford. As he crests a hill, Reuben sees Davy sitting just on the other side on a horse. Reuben and Davy look at each other for a minute before Davy smiles at Reuben and asks him how the climb was.
Even if Reuben finds his imaginings unsatisfactory from a literary point of view, they still provide enjoyment. This shows Reuben's firm grasp on reality, as he doesn't try to present these imaginings as fact by any means.
Themes
Youth vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Fiction, Reality, and the American West Theme Icon
Davy pulls Reuben up behind him on the horse and they pick their way down the hill. When the ground levels Davy asks Reuben to jump off. Reuben fumbles the dismount, but Davy dismounts after him and grabs him in a bear hug. Davy asks how Reuben knew he was the rider, and Reuben babbles about how he knew right away. Davy makes sure Reuben that didn't tell anyone about him.
Reuben again struggles to ride a horse, even with help. This continues to break down the basic elements of Westerns and reveal them to be difficult or unsatisfactory in practice, though romantic in fiction. Reuben is quick to show Davy how loyal he is and make it clear that he still admires Davy.
Themes
Youth vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Fiction, Reality, and the American West Theme Icon
Loyalty and Family Theme Icon
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Davy says he spied on Reuben and the rest of the family last night at the lignite field. He asks who Andreeson is, and Reuben launches into descriptions of how horrible Andreeson is. Reuben asks Davy where he's living, but Davy refuses to tell. The brothers sit on a down tree and make small talk. Reuben remembers Mr. Finch and wonders if Davy feels bad about killing Israel Finch.
Reuben still views Andreeson as a one-dimensional enemy, even as he's reminded that Davy himself isn't a one-dimensional hero. Davy appears restless, which suggests that his life on the run might not be all that idyllic or romantic.
Themes
Youth vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Fiction, Reality, and the American West Theme Icon
Loyalty and Family Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
Davy asks about Roxanna, and Reuben gives a cursory explanation. Reuben suggests that Davy come down to Roxanna's to see Swede, but Davy gently refuses, citing the threat of Andreeson as his reasoning. Davy says that he's trying to avoid going to prison. Reuben asks what he's supposed to say when he returns to Roxanna's, and Davy sharply tells Reuben that he can't tell anyone about him. Reuben wonders if it's possible to not tell Swede.
Davy essentially asks Reuben to grow up here by asking him to keep a secret from Swede and act as an individual. Further, this recalls Reuben's remark about Davy seeming to hunt alone. Reuben will have to choose if he'd like to move through life alone like Davy, or with the help of community and God like Dad does.
Themes
Youth vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Loyalty and Family Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
Davy abruptly changes the subject. He says he didn't steal the horse; the horse belongs to a friend. Reuben asks if the friend is Lonnie Ford. Davy grows restless, and Reuben begins to panic as he realizes that the visit is coming to a close and he'll never see Davy again. Davy swings up on his horse, pulls Reuben up behind him, and moves off to take him back to Roxanna's.
Davy's insistence that Reuben know the horse isn't stolen shows Davy's awareness that Reuben will romanticize Davy's life and fill in any blanks with what he knows of Western motifs. Reuben sees Davy as betraying Reuben's loyalty here, as Davy seems unwilling to return Reuben's show of loyalty.
Themes
Fiction, Reality, and the American West Theme Icon
Loyalty and Family Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
Reuben asks what Davy's friend's name is. Davy says that his friend is in a lot of trouble, but has been good to Davy. The friend's name is Jape Waltzer. Reuben continues to panic about not seeing Davy again. When they reach the hill behind Roxanna's, Reuben shamefully tells Davy that he'll tell Dad if Davy doesn't show him where he lives. Davy finally agrees and Reuben, surprised, falls off the horse. Davy tells Reuben that he'll be back later that night to pick him up.
Reuben continues to demonstrate his own incompetence at existing in the West as he struggles with the horse. Though Reuben's desire for a display of loyalty is understandable, the particulars of his threat are very childish and continue to point to Reuben's youth. Davy seems to have reservations about his "friend," suggesting again that life on the run might not be entirely wonderful.
Themes
Youth vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Fiction, Reality, and the American West Theme Icon
Loyalty and Family Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
When Reuben enters Roxanna's house, Swede is grumpily mixing up frosting for cinnamon rolls. Swede asks if Reuben was looking for Dad, and explains that Dad went out with Mr. Andreeson. Reuben cannot understand why Dad would do such a thing, but Swede offers no answers. Roxanna comes inside from helping a customer and Reuben shouts his question of why Dad went with Andreeson. Roxanna sits next to Reuben and explains that Dad was "led." Reuben doesn't buy this, but Roxanna says that she woke last night to Dad praying. Reuben explains that later, Roxanna would tell them that she heard Dad go toe to toe with God over whether or not to go with Andreeson.
Roxanna has now seen with her own eyes how Dad interacts with God, and she joins Mr. Holgren and Reuben in the belief that Dad has access to a higher power. Like Reuben, she becomes a witness and a disciple of Dad's. Here though, she must lead Reuben, Dad's other witness, to understand or accept the intricacies of Dad's relationship with God. Reuben childishly insists on continuing to view Andreeson as an enemy and refuses to consider a more nuanced take on the situation.
Themes
Youth vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Fiction, Reality, and the American West Theme Icon
Loyalty and Family Theme Icon
Roxanna tries to show Reuben how he was led to do things too, like purchase groceries with his $25. Reuben isn't willing yet to play along.
Reuben insists still on behaving like a child. He sees that buying groceries helped his family, while the possibility that helping Andreeson will help the family seems far-fetched.
Themes
Youth vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Loyalty and Family Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon
Roxanna tells Reuben and Swede that Butch Cassidy didn't die in Bolivia; rather, he died in Kansas. Swede is thrilled because she never truly believed Cassidy died in Bolivia. Cassidy took a new name, Jonas Work, and entered the windmill business. Roxanna shows Reuben and Swede the obituary for Jonas Work, which had been clipped out of the paper and sent to her uncle Howard by an unknown sender. Reuben and Swede spend the day poring over the obituary and wondering about the particulars of Butch Cassidy's death.
The story once again seems far-fetched, though Swede and Reuben take it as fact. They do, however, continue to embellish the story and make it fit their own preconceived notions as they wonder about and discuss the particulars of Cassidy's death. This shows again how Swede in particular takes liberties with facts to make things true that she wants to be true and not think critically about them.
Themes
Youth vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Fiction, Reality, and the American West Theme Icon
Justice and Consequences Theme Icon