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Chapter 6 - ashes of roses Summary
Ada and Ruby are working in the field when three women, six children and two slaves approach with their mule drawn wagon. The women’s husbands are off at the war and the Federals have raided and burned their house down. Ruby and Ada give them a hearty dinner and a place to sleep. In the morning they share breakfast and draw up a map so the travelers can continue their journey.
That noon, Ada and Ruby go to check on the apple orchard, bringing along a picnic lunch. Ruby quizzes Ada, a habit she has recently developed, to show Ada how lost and confused Ada is in the natural world. Ada envies Ruby’s knowledge and is slowly learning from her.
Ruby explains that she learned much from older women such as Sally Swanger. But she has learned the most by paying close attention to the workings of nature. Ada thinks Ruby has given a mind and a plan to each life form. As Ruby dozes, Ada walks to the edge of the woods watching and listening. She feels good about her world.
That evening Ada reads more from Homer’s Odyssey and recounts to Ruby the story of a party in Charleston. Ruby scoffs at the characters from both tales thinking that they wasted their lives on useless things.
Ada is just beginning to realize that within the landscape around her is “all the life there is” and she is a part of it.
As history shows, the women travelers have become stronger as a result of the war. They are beginning the process of self- knowledge and independence. Ruby, the epitome of self- sufficiency, is the role model for depending on those things opposite of things the other women have learned to live by.
Even Ada is coming around to the mountain ways. She does not understand, but still respects how Ruby behaves “in accordance with the signs”. Though she works in the fields and does her share of tending the animals, the reader still sees Ada in her Charleston finery, an anachronism not only in time but also in place. Her modern dress and hairstyles postdate the methods she must live by in the mountains.
There is also another reference to the Odyssey as we compare Ada’s situation with Penelope’s and Inman’s with Odysseus.