After the move to the new house in Bloomington, Rosemary’s mother barely talks or eats and only comes out of her bedroom at night. Grandma Donna comes over to help look after Rosemary during the day. Rosemary explores her neighborhood, but there aren’t any children her age, so instead she befriends the neighborhood pets. She also spends time alone and with Mary, but does not enjoy this. Rosemary knows that Donna disliked Fern, particularly after Fern rifled through Donna’s handbag and ate the last photograph taken of Grandpa Dan. Rosemary’s father had originally wanted to name Rosemary and Fern each after one of their grandmothers, but a fight broke out because both grandmothers wanted their name given to Rosemary, so the plan was abandoned.
This passage contains further evidence of tensions that exist beneath the seemingly harmonious family dynamic. Following her nervous breakdown, Rosemary’s mother has retreated from the world entirely, failing to live up to her role within the family. Meanwhile, in Fern’s absence Rosemary is isolated, and her intense loneliness is shown by her befriending of the neighborhood pets. Perhaps the most curious example of this tension, however, is the grandmothers’ battle over who could give their name to Rosemary. Why do Rosemary’s family treat Fern with such coldness?
During the time she looks after Rosemary, Grandma Donna is sometimes kind and sympathetic and sometimes impatient and judgmental. Lowell is still staying with a friend, and Donna’s attempt to retrieve him is unsuccessful. Donna leaves before Rosemary’s father gets home and tells Rosemary to keep it a secret that she has been there, but Rosemary’s father knows anyway. In the evenings, Rosemary’s father makes her a dinner of peanut butter and crackers and spends his time drinking. When she is supposed to be asleep, Rosemary hears her parents arguing, with her father drunkenly protesting the fact that the family all blames him. Eventually, Lowell comes home, and Rosemary is thrilled to see him.
Rosemary’s family seems to be at a breaking point, pushed apart by dishonesty, isolation, and self-destructive behavior. This downward spiral is triggered and exacerbated by three absences: Fern, Lowell, and Rosemary’s mother. Although Rosemary’s mother is still technically in the house and Lowell is only staying with a friend, their lack of participation in family life has a devastating impact on the rest of the family. This passage thus suggests that there is more than one way to be absent within a social dynamic, and that all forms of absence can have a dramatically damaging effect.