Orleanna admits that her grief will follow her wherever she goes. She once had a daughter named Ruth May, and now she doesn’t. Ever since her child’s death, she’s been trying to “stay in motion,” to help herself forget the past.
Now we can see what Orleanna has been dealing with for the decades since Ruth May’s death: she blames herself for letting Ruth May go free, and may even believe that she caused her child’s death. In order to escape these feelings, Orleanna must try to distract herself, and “stay in motion.”
Orleanna continues talking about “staying in motion.” She explains that while she tried to move, Nathan refused to move at all—he stayed stubbornly still, even while the rest of the world was changing around him. In the end, she thinks, the people who refuse to move “always lose.” Whether it’s the Pharaoh in Egypt, the Americans bombing Hiroshima, or the European imperialists in Africa, life moves on without them. Orleanna concludes by addressing “my little beast.” She explains that life is a process of constant change. To be still is to be sorrowful.
Orleanna’s point here is sobering and yet fundamentally optimistic: she’s saying that the tyrants of the world, whether they’re abusive fathers or imperialist rulers, will always fail in the end, because the world itself opposes their actions. People like Nathan are trying to stop their children from growing up and taking control over their own lives—but his plans are doomed. In short, change is the root of all life.