A Gathering of Days Summary & Study Guide

Joan W. Blos
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A Gathering of Days Summary & Study Guide Description

A Gathering of Days Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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The novel "A Gathering of Days" by Joan W. Blos is the fictional diary of a fourteen-year-old girl who lived in Meredith, New Hampshire, during the early nineteenth century. These are the days before the Civil War when slaves still existed in the nation. Catherine begins to record the events of her humble life in October 1830. Catherine describes a pioneer lifestyle that was simple and joyful, yet devastating. At the end of the work, there is a letter from Catherine to her great-granddaughter in which she states how joyful it is to share the events of her diary.

Catherine begins her journal by stating that it has been brought for her from Boston by her father. She includes many forms of writing within her diary including recipes, various short stories told by her father or uncle, and various occurrences at her school, but her main focus is with her family. The reader is immediately introduced to her father, Charles Hall, and the fact that her mother died four years earlier after giving birth to a son who also passed away. She also has a younger sister named Matty and an unmarried uncle named Jack. Her best friend is Cassie Shipman who lives in a house south of Catherine’s. Cassie has three brothers—David, Asa, and William.

Despite the loss of her mother and having to grow up at a young age in order to take care of the household, Catherine leads a happy life. One night, Charles Hall tells his daughters the story of a man who was walking in the woods one day and thought he saw a headless woman. He returned the next day to find it was just a tree. Shortly after the story, Catherine thinks she sees a phantom in the woods. Soon after, her lesson book goes missing and she cannot find it anywhere. After days of searching, she sees it on a rock near the school yard. She discovers writing inside the book—a plea for help from the cold. Asa, who knows about the stranger who wrote in her book, asks Catherine to meet him at the rock. When they meet, the two friends wonder whether or not it could be a runaway slave that left the message. A few days later, some pies are found missing from the Shipman’s storage and Asa takes the blame. Catherine and he both know it was the stranger who took them, but neither is willing to put his life in jeopardy. Asa tells Cassie about the man.

Cassie grows angry with Catherine for not coming to her with the news and explains withholding information is the same as lying. The two friends soon resolve the dispute and decide to give one of Catherine’s mother’s quilts to the fugitive. They leave the quilt on the rock. As the winter worsens, they find that the blanket is gone and so are all traces of the man. Mrs. Shipman’s unmarried sister arrives in town with hopes of winning over the heart of Catherine’s father. Her name is Aunt Lucy. After a few encounters, Catherine’s father makes it clear he does not want to marry her and she leaves him alone.

Teacher Holt brings in The Liberator by William Garrison into the school one day to teach. He believes in teaching his students all aspects of society, including the bad. Soon after, Teacher Holt is accused of helping the fugitive escape and bringing newspapers into the school. He confesses to the second crime and is no longer allowed to bring in texts not approved by the town. He is also forced to move into the home of the Shipman’s However, he continues to teach The Liberator after school.

When Catherine’s father goes on his annual trading trip to Boston, he comes back with news of his engagement to a woman named Ann Highman. At first, Catherine does not seem to react to the news, but as the day of the wedding approaches, she grows to dislike the woman. Ann arrives with her son Daniel and for a while things are awkward around the house. As time passes, they get used to each other and Catherine grows to accept her father’s new bride. One day a new weaver is called to the house and amidst talk of stitching, Matty brings up the fact Catherine gave away one of the quilts to a stranger. As a punishment, Catherine is forced to make a replacement quilt. The children discover Aunt Lucy and Teacher Holt are to be married.

When the weather grows unusually warm, the Shipman’s and Hall’s pick berries together. During the excursion, Cassie grows very cold and suffers with a fever after. As the days pass, Cassie’s health continues to deteriorate and she finally dies. This is a tough event for Catherine who considered Cassie to be her most dear friend. After her death, Catherine’s life begins to change dramatically. She is taken out of school because the new teacher is too harsh and gets home schooling from her step-mother. Soon after the marriage of Teacher Holt and Aunt Lucy, Aunt Lucy invites Catherine to come to her new home in another town to help take care of the baby. Catherine agrees and at the end of the diary, she reflects on her last moments at home.

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