The laughing girl

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Explain Nathan’s investigation ( through H. Peoples ) to find Aurora, his ( lost ) “poor niece”. Once he finds out where she lives, he hits the road again ! to bring her back to Brooklyn and the family.
Flashback on Aurora’s life and folly. She has been “saved”, i.e. is in the hands of D. Minor, a Christian fanatic who gradually became domineering and abusive until hefinally locked her up to control her.
The beginning of the chapter focuses on the setting of this abuse and of the rescue. The atmosphere is “gloomy”, the house is shabby, closed to light ( like “a cave” ) , as if “against the glare of natural light”, so as to fend off the “outside world” , in a perversion of reality ( Fundamentalism ). Nathan’s overall impression generates anxiety and a series of“what if” ( a tragic outcome to Rory’s story ? ).
He wonders if he ( not “it” ) is too late, which suggests his newly-found sense of responsibility towards his family.. He is prepared to any possible development and has lost part of his easy-going self-confidence.
The passage first describes the conversation between the Southern Christian fanatic and the Jewish atheist…quite an impossible one –the tone is ambivalent, varying from serious and tense to funny and sarcastic ( Nathan is obviously uncomfortable ) – then in a second part , the situation is reversed : Minor no longer has the upper hand and Nathan rescues Rory.

I . David Minor : “Mr Holy” !
At best, deeply ambiguous, at worst, a fake, hypocritical “monster”.
His ambiguity is immediately pointed out by Nathan : he isgood-looking, with “ gentle blue eyes”. In a few words totally “ unthreatening”, “ normal” : Nathan is partly deceived by Minor’s appearance, behaviour then conversation.
However, Nathan identifies him as “a man who had been to church”, which sounds as a clue to beware of him! “ Pleasant enough “ or “ like a fanatic” ? Where is the truth ? Nathan wonders as the conversation starts and evolves,but he is almost taken in by Minor’s apparent righteousness
( = droiture, vertu ). This shows how convincing and dangerous these fanatics can be.
David’s story is one of redemption : he used to be a “sinner” ( all possible sins ! : “a drug-addict, a fornicator, a liar, petty criminal, betrayer” ) and he has been saved by this church ( sect ). He has
“ found peace in the Lord”, which wouldbe fine, if God was not the God of Fundamentalists.

II. Fundamentalism.
Make a difference between a) how this church is presented by Minor - “a flock” b) how Nathan describes and judges it - “a crackpot temple of God”.

a) It is based on THE Word, that Fudamentalists take literally ( the Book = the Bible ) , which clearly means to them that “the words of men mean nothing” ( seeAurora later on ! ). Oppose it to the way Nathan and Tom worship the words of men / writers. Because of the “vanity of human speech”, all forms of communication are banned : no chatter, or idle talk, no telephones, no TV, silence one day a week ( refer to Lucy ).
Saving people from evil is the purpose ( like Aurora for ex. ) as well as “ living good lives on earth” looking for purity ( and judgingwho is considered impure - remember the Salem witch-hunt ). Very nice words indeed !

b) Nathan rationally comments upon this church, sometimes making fun of it ( half way between sarcasm and fear ) : “give him his God and church!”, “your Reverend has all figured out”. The light tone is meant to “ exorcize” the dramatic situation. He also makes sensible remarks ( if your child is sick and youcan’t speak, who will call the doctor ? With what phone? ).

III. The scheme.
Nathan has a strategy although he falters at one point ( p.256 ) because of Minor’s convincing eloquence ( “soft-spoken”, “calm”). What if David was right about Rory and his personal role in saving her ? Again, Auster points out that the risk of listening to these “ preachers” exists and is a menace to...