Kate and Merle in Ferris Beach
Kate’s perspective and understanding of deceptive appearances is heightened by her encounter and ensuing relationship with Merle Hucks. Kate had gone to school with Merle and been his neighbor for many years, but never knew him as anything more than a bully and a Hucks. However, Kate finally meets Merle one day at Mrs. Poole’s house and learns that all her judgments and fabricated perceptions of him were based on his appearance and on rumors, and they were way off target. When Kate finally gets to know Merle, she finds that he is a very compassionate young man and nothing like what she had judged him to be. Her understanding of Merle becomes clear one evening as she watches Dexter, R.W., and the rest of the vigilantes rape Perry Loomis. In an attempt to save Perry from the violent unfolding, Merle is brutally beaten down by Dexter’s companions. Merle chivalrous behavior demonstrates to Kate that he is certainly not one of them; he is different. ` Shortly after the rape, Merle and Kate meet for the first time in the Whispering Pines graveyard to discuss what happened to Perry. The graveyard is significant because it serves as a symbolic haven where the youths of Fulton can evade the society around them, explore their minds, and employ their imaginations. Her meeting with Merle in the graveyard initiates her first real relationship with a boy and also confirms the very reality of the rape she witnessed a few nights earlier. The rape signifies the bitterness of the dark side of Kate’s surrounding society which becomes vividly clear to her. Kate’s understanding of Merle marks another threshold in her education as she realizes how deceptive appearances can be. When Kate has the chance to delve beneath Merle’s misleading facade, she learns that he has a much different character than she ever thought.
Kate and Merle are very close to one another when tragedy again strikes down into their lives, this time with the arson of Merle’s house and the murder of his brother Dexter. The Hucks’ tragedy serves as a threshold which provides Kate with a deeper understanding of relationships and the significance of family. As the drama unfolds in front of the Hucks’ house, Kate stands by Merle comforting him until he leaves her to attend to his family. She watches Merle and his family console one another and she realizes that tragedy affects everyone regardless of their social class. The Hucks’ are certainly not upper-class nor are they even middle class citizens. However, they are still humans and when tragedy reigns down upon them, they are affected just like everyone else. As she stands watching the fire and the emotional drama, Kate realizes that tragedy transcends the walls of social classes and affects people on all levels.