Summary of Chapter 8: The Evening
Adam walks back to his home and thinks back to when he played "Pontiac," a sort of cowboys-and-Indians, as a child but knows it is too far away to recover that past and gives it up.
At the house, many neighbors have come to visit and prepare food. His mother now treats him as the man of the house who must be fed. Granny seems an old woman now. She has no more sons. She gives Adam some candles to take to the church where the coffin is.
Ruth is waiting for him, and they talk. Ruth says when she thought he was dead, she thought she would have to be an old maid. She tells him she loves him and asks about the battle in the morning on the green, and he tells that a battle is not what he thought; it was “confused” (p. 179). She worries that the British will come again and the same thing will happen. He tells her how things are changing: "Today we knew that we wouldn't fight. But now we know that we must, and we're learning how" (p. 180).
They meet the Reverend who tells Adam he “did a man’s work” today (p. 180), but he should take his time joining the war because his mother needs him now. He nods. Ruth is afraid he will leave, but he says he won’t do anything for a while.
After they sit quietly in the church for a few minutes, Ruth asks Adam if he loves her, and after thinking about it he says yes. She tells him she loves him, and they kiss and part.
Most of the neighbors have left when Adam returns home. He has a final conversation with his grandmother about his father, and about whether he will leave for the siege at Boston. Adam says that he doesn't know what he will do, but that he will rest for a while. Granny won’t go to bed. She sits and worries that she will also lose her grandson as she has her five sons.
Adam goes up to bed and falls asleep, thanking God the day is over and thinking once more how both his childhood and the world he knew are "over and done with and gone for all time" (p. 184).
Commentary on Chapter 8: The Evening
There is a foreboding that that violence is not over and that Adam will have to continue in the war. In the beginning of the story he wanted to be regarded as a man by his family. Now, his only reaction is that it is happening too fast. He is in a kind of shock. He realizes that for his mother now “I had to be a man with terrible urgency” (p. 175). Levi, who wanted to torment his brother before, now looks at him “with hero-worshipping eyes” (p. 175). Adam looks helplessly at Ruth, thinking they will force her to grow up too, but then he suddenly understands that she wants to grow up quickly. She is ready to be a woman. Though the future is left open-ended, it is obvious that Adam will marry Ruth and hold his family together. He will also probably participate at times in the coming war.
Ruth says she can’t get used to the idea they have to kill and fight now. Fast continues his anti-violence ethic, showing that men sometimes must fight against their own consciences. Simmons tells Adam the reason for this: it is the old story of defending one’s home.