A few days later, Harlow comes to Rosemary’s apartment to apologize and offers to buy her a beer. Many people at the bar seem to know Harlow and countless men offer to buy her a drink, but all of them are sweetly refused. The girls ask each other questions that range from ordinary to strange and intimate. Harlow asks Rosemary if she loves her mother or father better, a question Rosemary finds “dangerous.” She replies by telling Harlow a story about when she was unexpectedly “shipped off” to Grandma Fredericka’s house in Indianapolis without explanation. The house is filled with fake, tacky objects and has a “stale” smell. All the children on the street are older than Rosemary, and her grandparents spend all day in front of the TV. Sometimes they watch a soap opera together; Rosemary’s grandfather Joe warns her that in real life people do not act like this.
Rosemary’s conversation with Harlow confirms the fact that she is also deeply invested in silence and deflection in order to avoid revealing her family’s true nature. The story about being “shipped off” to her grandparents’ house hints at some unspoken family tension, but such an experience is fairly common and thus preserves the impression that her family is still relatively normal. Notice too that Rosemary conveys most of her feelings about her grandparents without expressing them explicitly. Her comments about her grandparents’ incessant TV watching and tacky décor suggests that they have a different class background and lifestyle to Rosemary’s immediate family.
One day, Fredericka takes Rosemary to play with the children of a woman she met at the beauty shop, but while Rosemary is on their trampoline her skirt flies up to reveal her underwear, and she is so embarrassed that she attempts to walk all the way home to her parents’ house in Bloomington. On the way, Rosemary knocks on the door of an unknown man, who ends up returning her to her grandparents. The next day, Rosemary’s grandparents send her back to Bloomington. Harlow asks if Rosemary’s mother was having a baby. Rosemary knows that her mother was in fact having a nervous breakdown, but is determined to conceal this truth. She tells Harlow that the weirdest part of the story is that when she was in the house of the unknown man, she accidentally opened a wrong door while looking for a bathroom and found a woman lying naked on a bed, her limbs tied, with something stuffed in her mouth. The woman winked at her.
This passage contains another powerful exploration of the tension between normalcy and deviance. Following the societal demand that people—and especially women—feel a sense of shame about their bodies and sexuality, Rosemary feels humiliated when her skirt flies up on the trampoline. However, this ironically leads her to the house of a man who is engaged in sadomasochistic sex and directly encountering a woman who seems to be taking pleasure in her own sexuality (and specifically sexual humiliation). The fact that it is this man who dutifully returns Rosemary to her grandparents suggests that the binary between appropriate behavior and deviance is more complicated than is often assumed.
Reg arrives; Harlow introduces him to Rosemary and tells him that Rosemary’s favorite superhero is Tarzan. Rosemary originally picked Tarzan on a whim, without thinking through the fact that Tarzan does not actually have superpowers; however, the more she thinks about it, the more she is sure that this is the right choice. The conversation continues, and Rosemary concludes that Reg has “the brains of a bivalve” and that she is happy he is not her boyfriend.
This passage further emphasizes Rosemary’s affinity with animals. Not only does she pick Tarzan—a character who was raised by apes and lives as an animal—as her favorite superhero, but when describing Reg’s lack of intelligence she compares him to a bivalve, a type of mollusk without a head. Clearly animals are often on Rosemary’s mind.