The day after Christopher finds the letter, a classmate named Joseph defecates all over the changing room at school and starts to eat his own feces. He has also eaten plastic animals, which come out in his poop. Christopher refuses to go into the bathroom, so he wets his pants and is allowed to use the staff bathroom for two days.
This incident demonstrates the wide variation in degrees of disability of the students at Christopher’s school. Furthermore, it acts as a representation of Christopher’s inner turmoil over the letters, even if he doesn’t acknowledge it to himself.
Four days later, it rains, and Christopher watches it and thinks about water traveling all around the world and connecting different places. The following evening, Ed has to go out on an emergency call for someone whose basement has flooded.
As he often does, Christopher thinks of the world, humanity, and the universe on a large scale rather than remaining confined to his own small life. He’s content to bide his time in getting back to the letters.
Christopher returns to Ed’s bedroom and finds 43 letters addressed to him. In the first letter he opens, his mother writes about getting a new cooker and fridge. She reminisces about a Christmas when Christopher received a train set and played with it constantly, and his parents helped him make a timetable and showed him how train stations work.
The number of letters Christopher finds shows the enormity of Ed’s deception. This letter also provides a view into Christopher’s childhood, and his practice with this train set and timetable will later help him use the train to get to his mother’s house.
In the second letter, Christopher’s mother explains why she left him. She doesn’t think she’s a very good mother, because she’s impatient and gets upset easily, unlike Ed. Once, she took Christopher shopping during the Christmas season, and the stores were so crowded that Christopher got upset and crouched on the floor. When Judy tried to move him, he broke merchandise and then lay on the floor screaming. They had to walk home because Christopher wouldn’t get on the bus. That night, Ed was kind to Christopher, but Judy got in an argument with Ed because she was so frustrated with Christopher.
This letter confirms the betrayal of both Christopher’s parents—Judy for leaving him, and Ed for concealing that she left. At the same time, her story about taking Christopher shopping allows the reader to see Christopher from her point of view, and to realize the challenges of being his mother and the potentially counterproductive ways she dealt with these challenges. It also shows the “behavioral problems” Christopher mentioned earlier, and how much better he has become at conforming to social standards.
Arguments like this were frequent, and eventually Judy began spending more time with Roger Shears, their neighbor, because she felt like she could talk to him. Mr. and Mrs. Shears weren’t in love anymore, and soon Mr. Shears and Christopher’s mother fell in love. Mr. Shears wanted Judy to leave Ed, but she couldn’t leave Christopher.
Judy’s affair seemingly proceeded directly out of her frustration with Christopher and the tension it caused in her marriage. However, Christopher also acted as the only brake on the affair, as she didn’t want to leave him behind.
One evening, Judy and Christopher got into an argument because Christopher had refused to eat for days. Both of them began to throw things, and a cutting board broke Judy’s toes. When she got home from the hospital, she and Ed got into another big argument, because Ed blamed her for not being able to keep her temper in check around Christopher. While Judy’s toes were healing, she saw Ed taking care of Christopher and decided he did a much better job than she did, and Christopher didn’t actually need her.
Again, this scene shows the degree to which Christopher’s behavior has improved over the years. It reveals tensions in both Judy and Ed, as Judy apparently used to be the angry parent, but Ed has recently gotten into a similarly physical fight with Christopher over the book. Judy obviously dealt with conflicting maternal feelings, as she resisted leaving in order to take care of her son, but then decided she was an inadequate mother anyway.
When Mr. Shears asked Judy to come with him to a new job in London, she decided it would be best for everyone if she went. She meant to explain everything to Christopher then, but Ed forbade her from talking to him. She didn’t want to hurt Christopher, and now she wonders if he still wants to be an astronaut, and if he’s still doing math.
Judy may have truly believed she was doing the right thing by leaving, but this would undoubtedly be difficult for either Christopher or Ed to understand, and it’s hard to know whether deep down, she was just finding excuses to escape from a situation in which she felt inadequate.
In the third letter, Judy says that she’s been writing to Christopher every week. She’s gotten a job as a secretary at a company that appraises houses. She likes the office, but she’s not very good at the math that she has to do. Besides, one of her bosses always wants her to work faster, and the other is somewhat creepy. She recently went on a walk to a park and wished that she could bring Christopher there. She has also sent him a puzzle, and wants to know whether he’s solved it yet.
Although she did leave Christopher, Judy tried to make up for it by writing him letters and sending him gifts. She seems to have felt guilty about leaving, as she assures Christopher she’s thinking about him often and points out how many letters she’s sent. However, she was undoubtedly making a new life for herself that doesn’t include her son.
In the fourth letter, Judy writes about going to the dentist to get two teeth pulled. When Christopher got a tooth pulled, they had to put him to sleep so that he’d let the dentist touch him, but Judy only got a local anesthetic. It hurt later.
Again, this letter provides a parent’s perspective on raising Christopher. Furthermore, the two teeth Judy has pulled can represent Christopher and his father, whom she has pulled from her life. She is experiencing an enduring pain from her desertion, just like the pain of having her teeth pulled.
Christopher suddenly has to stop reading the letters, because he feels sick. He’s realized that his mother didn’t die, and his father lied to him. He feels dizzy and curls up. When he becomes aware of his surroundings again, it’s gotten dark out, and he’s thrown up all over the bed. His father is calling his name, and every time he says it, Christopher sees the word written out in his mother’s handwriting.
Christopher hasn’t reacted to Mrs. Alexander’s revelation about his mother’s affair or to the initial discovery of the letters, but now the entire awful truth is hitting him. As Ed calls his name and Christopher sees Judy’s handwriting, he understands how their joint actions have betrayed him.
Ed comes into the room, sees the letters, and realizes what has happened. He touches Christopher, and it doesn’t hurt the way it usually does. Ed apologizes and begins to cry, saying that he lied for Christopher’s own good. He says he didn’t know what to do when Judy left, and the situation got out of control. He runs a bath, takes Christopher’s clothes off, and leads him to the bath, and Christopher doesn’t protest.
Christopher’s world as he knew it has disintegrated, and it takes with it some of Christopher’s own rules. He seems to have almost lost his identity as he allows his father to touch him, since at every other moment touch has been unthinkable. Ed, a sturdy presence up until now, becomes vulnerable in his exposure.