When the going gets tough, Connie abandons his young wife. What a setback for Rose of Sharon! Her every ache and worry are compounded. She grows sick and lethargic.
At the boxcar camp some of Rose of Sharon's ailments go away. She gets plenty of rest and nourishing food. But feelings of bitterness over being deserted stay put. Secret jealousy and self-pity keep her from taking part in Al and Aggie's engagement celebration.
As time for the birth approaches, Rose of Sharon does a surprising thing for someone in her delicate state. She insists on picking cotton with the rest of her family. Is she being ruled by a self-destructive impulse? Downhearted people often are. Or might her sudden desire to work be just one of those odd urges that pregnant women feel?
Out in the cotton field she is chilled by the cold and wind. She develops a fever and lies in bed for three days. The next day, as the floodwaters rise around the boxcar, she goes into long and painful labor. The baby is born dead.
Rose of Sharon takes the news stoically, which is unlike her. Maybe she's relieved to know that she won't have to raise a child in awesome poverty. Suffering through childbirth has perhaps opened her eyes. Throughout the book we've seen her concerned almost exclusively with herself and her problems. Now she looks out at the world and turns completely about. In an act of extreme charity, she suckles a dying man with the milk of human kindness.
What Ma learned during months of suffering, Rose of Sharon discovered all at once: everybody must be treated as family if we are to endure. It's a message of love, which Rose of Sharon powerfully dramatizes for us in a barn.
© Copyright 1984 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
Electronically Enhanced Text © Copyright 1993, World Library, Inc.
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