In Chapter 1
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One day when a stray kitten begins to make noise, his father yells to: "Kill that damn thing!" Richard, wanting to anger his father, kills the kitten by strangling it even though he realizes that his father's words were not meant to be taken literally. But Richard's mother crushes him with "the moral horror involved in taking a life." During the evening, she orders him to bury and pray for the cat. Richard, disgusted and afraid, is able to bury the cat but runs away when his mother forces him to ask for the Lord's forgiveness.