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The Ox-Bow Incident: Novel Summary: Chapter Five

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Gerald is deemed to be physically fine after his father hit him, but Croft believes he is 'gnawing himself inside again'. They all reach the clearing and nearly ride into the horses there. The horses belong to Risley, the sheriff, and Kinkaid as well as Judge Tyler, Drew and Joyce. Kinkaid has a bandage to his head and this is the first time that it is revealed that Kinkaid is only injured. Tyler tells the men they are all under arrest for murder. Gil says that he knew they should have waited, and blames Tetley. Croft realizes that everyone else would also 'hang it on' Tetley after the event.
Nobody meets Risley's gaze, but Risley allows the men to carry on with their journey and says he has not recognized anybody. Tyler accuses him of collusion. Risley then asks for 10 men for his posse. They all volunteer, but he does not choose Mapes or Tetley. The others returning to town are told to say that Risley is taking care of the matter, and that nobody knew these men - they were outsiders.
Tetley is left to ride by himself and Davies talks to Risley and Drew. Davies wants to take the letter to Martin's wife and asks Drew to find a woman to help her. Drew says that it is true that he sold the cattle to Martin, and Gil says it must have been the other bunch after all.
Smith brings Gerald up a steep bank and it is revealed that Gerald was about to shoot himself. In a sudden change of perspective, but as Joyce and Croft predicted, Smith blames Tetley for everything.
Once they are back at Canby's saloon, Gil and Croft rent a room there. Davies is engulfed with guilt and chooses to talk about it to Croft. This dominates the rest of this chapter. Croft continuously tries to convince Davies that he and Sparks were the only men who tried to stop the murders. This is interspersed with references to the noises that are audible downstairs in the bar. Rose Mapen can be heard laughing and men are laughing along with her. Davies then reveals to Croft that Gerald is also dead and that he committed suicide in the barn of his family home. Davies repeats that he is guilty of the sin of omission for not staying with Gerald.
The other reasons for Davies's sense of guilt are explained as Davies relates how he feels cowardly for not shooting Tetley. He describes himself as 'gutless' for letting the men hang and keeps referring to Martin's letter until it also becomes an 'obsession'.
Gil and Canby enter the room and Gil tells them that Tetley has also killed himself after finding out about Gerald's death; Tetley jumped on a sword. Davies tries to run away and begins 'whimpering', 'like a woman crazy with grief'.
The novel ends with Canby explaining that 500 dollars have been collected for Martin's widow. Croft hears a meadow lark outside and he and Gil agree that they will both be pleased to get of there.
This chapter concentrates on the aftermath of the actions of the group. It is dominated by Davies' sense of guilt for the outcome and because of his inability to shoot Tetley when he knew he had to stop him. Parallels may be drawn here with Gerald's self-hatred for not performing the necessary act of violence to stop further violence.
The suicides of Gerald and Tetley are referred to as though in passing. The effect of this news devastates Davies, but Gil and Croft either repress the horror of what has happened or simply do not experience it. This is ambiguously portrayed and is in keeping with the characterization of Croft. It has been made apparent, however, that he does not take pleasure in exposing his emotions. This becomes clear in his conversation with Gerald on the mountain pass.
The style of this chapter offers a variation from the others in that the action continuously cuts from the main scene, when Davies 'confesses' his sins to Croft, to the noises that can be heard downstairs. The sound of Rose's laughter draws Croft's attention and it is evident that he is worrying about Gil's reaction to her presence in the saloon. This cutting back and forth from Davies' impassioned tale implies that the aftermath no longer holds Croft's full attention. This cutting technique demonstrates that Croft's concern for Davies, and any guilt he may be experiencing for being involved in the hanging of innocent men, is only limited as prevent events intrude on the past.
The ending of the novel avoids the traditional use of closure in genre fiction. Here, the narrator and Gil appear to agree that it is time to move on and Davies has been given something to help him sleep. The actions of the group are referred to characteristically as unchangeable; it is only Davies who attempts to unburden himself with words. The others either repress their guilt, or do not experience it. By avoiding the horror of what has occurred, Clark implies that this warfare against people who do not fit the (subjective) category of normal, be that outsiders or foreigners or effeminate men, will continue.


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