We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves Part 2, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves Part 2, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrative jumps back to 1979, “Year of the Goat.” Rosemary writes that, among other events, the reader might not have noticed that this is the year that the Animal Defense League is formed. In 1979, Rosemary is five years old; her father would point out that she is in the “preoperational phase” of development, which means that her cognitive and emotional skills are still limited. When her father picks her up from her grandparents’ house after her attempt to walk home to Bloomington, she is confused and unhappy, and decides to go to sleep.
Although Rosemary is a talkative child, her way of dealing with troubling situations is not by talking but by falling asleep. Rosemary’s use of falling asleep as an avoidance tactic again highlights her preference for silence and denial over confronting situations head-on. As Rosemary herself admits, she also uses silence, avoidance, and denial in her narrative style.
Themes
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and the Past Theme Icon
Absence, Silence, and Denial Theme Icon
Normalcy vs. Deviance Theme Icon
Upon waking, Rosemary finds herself lying underneath the quilt she always sleeps with at home, but in an unfamiliar room. She cries out, and her father comes in and comforts her, telling her that this is their new home. He tells her to explore, but not to go into her mother’s room. The house is smaller than their previous one, and Rosemary finds out that Lowell refused to stay there on their first night, instead sleeping over with a friend. The rooms are full of unopened boxes. Rosemary can’t find a place for the graduate students to work and notices that there are only three bedrooms—one for her parents, one for Lowell, and one of her own. At this point she realizes that a member of the family has been “given away.”
This passage drives home Rosemary’s argument that her parents avoid discussing uncomfortable topics with her. Still, their failure to tell her that they have moved houses and that a family member has been “given away” seems to be a rather extreme manifestation of this secrecy. Rosemary’s comment about the graduate students indicates that there is more to the situation than she is revealing here; after all, it is not exactly normal for graduate students to be working inside a family home.
Themes
Family, Tradition, and the Past Theme Icon
Absence, Silence, and Denial Theme Icon
Science, Knowledge, and Experiments Theme Icon
Normalcy vs. Deviance Theme Icon
When Rosemary leaves for college, she makes sure to never tell anyone about her sister, Fern. Although she was only five when Fern “disappeared,” she remembers her clearly. At the time, Lowell was furious with their parents over Fern’s disappearance, but Rosemary was afraid and even relieved that she was not the one who had been given away. Fern’s departure marked the point at which Lowell stopped seeing himself as part of the family, and Rosemary draws a sharp divide between her life with Fern and her life after. Because Rosemary’s parents don’t discuss the past, her memories from her early childhood mostly come from Grandma Fredericka. (Grandma Donna also used to talk about Fern, but Rosemary’s mother made her stop.) At the end of the chapter, Rosemary writes: “Once upon a time, there was a family with two daughters, and a mother and father who promised to love them both exactly the same.”
At this point it seems as if Fern was kidnapped or subject to some other sudden tragedy. Yet this contradicts what Rosemary said in the previous passage about Fern being “given away.” It seems highly unlikely that a family would actually give one of their children away (and even more unlikely given that they were then able to keep the other two). Yet the very last line of the chapter again subtly indicates that Rosemary’s parents are at fault. Rosemary states that they promised to love their daughters the same, thereby implying that they failed to live up to this promise. The end of this chapter thus points to a “Garden of Eden”-like state of moral innocence before a fall.
Themes
Family, Tradition, and the Past Theme Icon
Absence, Silence, and Denial Theme Icon
Normalcy vs. Deviance Theme Icon