At Rowena’s funeral the following Thursday, Tom and Mrs. Ross are stoic. Peggy’s boyfriend, Clinton Brown, is there in his soldier’s uniform, and Robert thinks that it must be nice that he can escape when the funeral is over. Robert’s hands feel empty as he subconsciously reaches out for Rowena’s wheelchair.
Seeing Clinton in uniform is what first gives Robert the idea to enlist in the military. By reaching out for Rowena’s wheelchair, he is both literally and figuratively grasping to replicate the sense of duty that he felt as Rowena’s protector, and the army is one outlet that could potentially provide this.
Back at home, Robert sits in his bedroom while the funeral guests are in the parlor. After they have left, he can hear his family arguing about the rabbits. Mrs. Ross continues to insist that Robert must kill them because he loved Rowena, and eventually becomes frustrated and goes off to drink in her bedroom.
Mrs. Ross’s relentless vengeance toward the rabbits shows that people tend to desperately seek out justice in order to cope with senseless tragedies. She continues to rely on alcohol to dull her emotions, again showing the destructive effects of trauma on the family unit.
Eventually, a worker from Mr. Ross’s factory named Teddy Budge is called in to kill the rabbits, and Robert races to the stable to stop him. He dashes outside, sliding in the mud as he runs, and attacks Teddy. They wrestle until Tom and Clinton separate them. Mr. Ross signals Teddy to go ahead with killing the rabbits.
Robert feels inclined to protect the rabbits because they are his last tangible connection to Rowena, and thus also to his childhood innocence. Trying to create an artificial sense of justice only leads to further tragedy, as killing the rabbits is a senseless act of revenge that perpetuates the family’s trauma rather than resolving it.