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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
The novel opens with Johnís recollection of his childhood. As the eldest son of his parents, everyone expected him to become a priest when he grew up. John also had started imagining himself in that role till his fourteenth birthday.
Johnís earliest memories are of Sunday mornings, when the whole house was in a flurry of activity. As the head of the family and minister of the church, his father would lead them to the church. Wearing clean clothes and cheerful in spirit, they would walk to the church. They would go past the hospital where his siblings were born. John remembers the times when his mother brought home the babies to make him feel estranged.
Johnís family would walk towards the church in a superior attitude, looking down on people who were enjoying the leisure of a Sunday morning. Reaching the temple of God, they would get separated to their seats in the respective parts of the church according to their age groups. John and his younger brother would be seated together along with other teenaged boys and hear the sermon read out by the young and handsome Elisha.
The priest of the church would always talk of virtues and sins. Once he had chastised Elisha for being friendly with a young female visitor to the church and warned him. Elisha and the girl had parted ways. At home, his father laid down rigid rules but Roy would always play truant. He would escape from the house or the church and return back late in the evening. His parents were worried about Roy and prayed to god for his safety. With John they were stricter. They wanted him to be good and virtuous. They wanted him to follow the path of god. Thus, they always kept a watch on his movements.
John is disillusioned with religion and his life as ordained by his father. On his fourteenth birthday, he wakes up with rebellion in his heart. He hopes fondly that someone would wake him after wishing him a happy birthday but no one comes to cheer his spirits. Feeling restless, he goes back to sleep. When he wakes up again, it is late in the morning. He hears the voice of his brother in the kitchen. Washing up, he reaches the kitchen to see his brother arguing with his mother. Roy is disgusted with his fatherís autocratic ways but his mother tries to justify her husbandís behaviour. John eats his breakfast in silence. When his mother asks him to clean the drawing room, he leaves to do his job with distaste.
As he cleans the room, he feels distressed that he has to do dirty work even on his birthday. However, after he finishes his job, his mother gives him a surprise. She enters the room to wish him and present him with a few coins for him to spend. John is grateful to her and loves her the more for it. He walks out of the house to enjoy his freedom. For some time he walks aimlessly towards the Central Park. Then he climbs a hill to look down at the magnificent city of New York. He observes people carrying on with their activities. He imagines himself holding a good position in life and enjoying the comforts of life. He longs for the luxuries of life, even though he is aware that it is sinful to dwell on worldly pleasures.