A Handful of Dust - Study Guide Chapter Five, In Search of a City: Part Four Summary & Analysis

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Chapter Five, In Search of a City: Part Four Summary

Tony and Messinger start the journey down the river alone. Wherever the boat gets caught they get out and wade, guiding the boat until the current picks up again. Aside from the insects and sporadic encounter with alligators, their trip carries on peacefully until Tony falls ill with a fever. The next day Tony feels better and both men are optimistic that the illness passed, but the fever returns that night. The fever continues in this pattern, so Messinger decides that they will continue down river in hopes of finding human life and aid for Tony.

Tony soon starts to hallucinate and Brenda is the first person he sees. When Tony is more coherent, Messinger explains to him that his illness is only going to continue and it is dangerous for him to have visions and delirium while in a canoe. He decides to leave Tony for the night and return for him with help in a day. He moves downstream and there is still no sign of life. Before long the waters become rough and Messinger realizes too late that a waterfall is ahead. Messinger's efforts are useless and his boat capsizes. It isn't long before he loses ground and the water closes over him.

Brenda meets with one of the family lawyers, Mr. Graceful, with hopes of obtaining some form of money from Tony's accounts. Mr. Graceful tells her that Tony left strict orders to keep Brenda away from all finances. Mr. Graceful replies that there is nothing Brenda can do to reverse the situation without a costly and lengthy court battle. As far as a final will, Mr. Graceful only discloses that Mr. Last would most likely have left all money to keep the estate at Hetton in its original grandeur. Back in her flat, she realizes that she is completely alone now, all of her friends are on luxurious trips and she is stuck in London barely able to afford a meal.

In Tony's mind, Brenda appears dressed in a ragged gown like the Indian, Rosa. They talk about a mix of the past and the present and all of the people they have encountered in their lives. The more he talks, the more jumbled things become. Eventually he sees the gates of the city they were in search of but he describes it like the City of Heaven and the gates are open waiting for him.

Chapter Five, In Search of a City: Part Four Analysis

Tony and Messinger's adventure has come to an end. Simultaneously, Brenda's adventure has also closed. Sickness offers Tony the reality of traveling to an unknown country in search of an unknown civilization. They had no real medical support and no human beings around for miles to assist. The events lead to Messinger's death and Tony is now stranded and hallucinating, near death himself. With all of the confusion in Tony's last moments, it's almost a relief that he may have come to the gates of heaven.

Even in delirium, Tony still thinks of Brenda because he loves her. As much as it may have seemed that Hetton was most important in his life, it has become clear Brenda has always been fundamental. Brenda tries to hold on to the memory of her marriage as a means to surviving. Brenda is left alone; all of the allies she had who encouraged her to carry on with Beaver and found amusement in Tony's pain have now left her. She sadly thinks that she has been wronged by Tony when it was her summer fling has cost Tony his life. At the same time, the peace that the chapter closes with is also brought about by the fact that Brenda may have finally gotten what she deserves.

This section contains 632 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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