One Day - Chapter 17 - 23 Summary & Analysis

David Nicholls (writer)
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Chapter 17 - 23 Summary

Emma and Dexter are now engaged. Emma is proud of Dexter, and proud to have him meet her family. They holiday at a cottage in North Yorkshire, where Dexter begins working on his wedding vows.

Dexter realizes he is slowly getting old, between more hair on his face and gray hairs on his head. He is also gaining some weight. He and Emma are trying to have a baby. They also take opposing points of view on the Iraq War. Emma is to the left politically, while Dexter is to the right. Dexter is also much more apathetic toward politics, while Emma is enmeshed in them. Dexter is unhappy as well at the thought of turning forty in two weeks. They agree to meet later to view a house. In a rainstorm, riding her bike to the address, Emma is killed when she is hit by a car.

The morning after their first night together, Emma discovers Dexter is getting ready to leave, having not wanted to wake her. They decide to spend the day together.

Ian Whitehead writes Dexter a letter, telling him that Emma would have wanted him to move on, and get his life in order. Dexter is drunk on the anniversary of Emma's death. He goes to a strip club, gets thrown out violently. It is Sylvie who takes care of Dexter after the bar, as does Dexter's father, who brings Dexter to his house and takes care of him.

Emma suggests she, Dexter, and Tilly climb Arthur's Seat, a large hill. Tilly can't go, and so Emma and Dexter go alone. Dexter is impressed with the view.

Dexter has now been seeing Maddy, the manager of the cafe, for two months. Dexter has moved into a new flat, but is still resoundingly sad. Dexter goes through Emma's old things, and finds old photographs and memorabilia. One of them is a photograph of them both at Arthur's Seat.

Dexter, Maddy, and Jasmine are in Edinburgh for a holiday. Dexter brings Jasmine around the city, and shows her Arthur's Seat, bringing her up to the top of the hill. It causes Dexter to reflect on the afternoon with Emma. Following the hillside adventure, Dexter's parents, who have arrived to pick him up, invite Emma out to dinner, but Emma declines. Dexter then gives her his phone number, and tells her to call him.

Chapter 17 - 23 Analysis

As if anything else could happen, not only do Dexter and Emma end up together, they get married and seek to have children. They are opposites in many ways, but strikingly similar in others. While Dexter appears to be right-of-center politically, Emma is clearly left-of-center. Dexter is more reserved and rational about certain things, while Emma is more passionate and lively. Nevertheless, Dexter and Emma support one another, and watch out for the other, no matter what. Consider Emma's unfailing support in Dexter's decision to open up a cafe.

Just as Dexter and Emma are about to enter middle age, and begin a new phase in their lives, Emma is killed in a freak accident when a car hits her while she is riding her bike to meet Dexter. All of the happiness that they have shared for two years -and most of their lives- has suddenly ended. The consequences of Emma's death, and the immensity of love that existed between them, is discovered in the downfall that Dexter experiences after her passing. What existed between Emma and Dexter was clearly not just friendship, but real love.

The reader is here reminded of Dexter's promise to marry Emma when she is 40, if she is still single. Emma is 39 and married when she dies. The irony is not only tragic, but heart-wrenching as well.

By the end of the novel, Dexter and his father have come to terms, with Dexter's father caring for him in the middle of his depression. The love of family is further contrasted between the love of father and daughter -Dexter and Jasmine- and the love of Dexter and Emma, as shown in the Arthur's Seat episode at the end of the book. Indeed, Dexter's single act of giving Emma his phone number, and asking her to call him, will set the rest of their lives on a course for the other.

This section contains 721 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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