Summary – Chapter Twenty Four
The chapter begins with a description of Teresa standing at her bedroom window in her white nightdress and singing. She is calling for Byron and David is sitting at his table in the dog-yard. This project is no longer a hobby as it consumes him now, but it feels like it is going nowhere and has become ‘the kind of work a sleepwalker might write’. He also thinks it will not be performed.
Of the dogs in the pens, he has come to feel ‘a particular fondness’ for one of them. It is a young male that has a withered left hindquarter that it drags along. No interest has ever been shown in it by visitors and ‘its period of grace is almost over’. He sometimes lets it out while he is reading and writing and knows the dog would die for him. It is fascinated by the sound of the banjo and listens when he plays it.
David meets Lucy on market days and one day, on being prompted, she says how she will grow to love her child and she is determined to be a good mother. She also says that he should try to be a good person too.
One day, he takes a drive towards her farm and walks towards it across the veld. He sees Lucy working and thinks how she is becoming a peasant. He also thinks how he will be a grandfather and that he lacks the ‘virtues’ of being old, such as ‘equanimity, kindliness, patience’. When he makes his presence known, Lucy comes over and smiles and invites him in for tea. He sees this as a good sign in that he is being treated like a visitor, and this is ‘a new footing, a new start’.
The narrative shifts to a Sunday and David and Bev are engaged in one of ‘their sessions of Lösung’. One by one, he brings in the cats and then the dogs and every time Bev comforts them and ‘puts them away’.
He and Bev do not speak and he has learned from Bev to give the animals all of his attention and love, which he no longer has difficulty in naming.
He ties the last bag. There is only the young dog left that likes the music and he remembers Bev saying how it gets harder all the time. He agrees but thinks it also gets easier too. He could save this dog for another week, but knows the time will come for him to bring him to Bev in her operating room at some point. She asks if there are anymore dogs and he says there is one more. He brings the dog to her, and bears him in his arms like a lamb, and she says she thought she would save him for another week. She asks if he is giving him up, and he says he is.
Analysis – Chapter Twenty Four
The novel ends with David bringing the dog that he has grown to care for to Bev and he is described as holding him like a sacrificial lamb. Yet again, the allusions to Christianity are made and David – who describes himself as a non-believer – comes to see the value of love. He has also just found the ability to name this word, and has done so by working with Bev as she gives the dogs all of her care prior to their lethal injections.
This reconciliation with the idea of thinking in tandem with Bev is also a repeated motif in the last glimpse we have of David and Lucy together. Despite his views about her pregnancy and decision to stay in her home, he is accepted back by her on a new footing. Although the tone of this last chapter is made poignant with the references to the killing of the dogs, there is also a shadow of optimism for the future as David finds reconciliation and is finally able to speak of love.