From book 1
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I think that Mr. Mr. Shimerda's suicide in chapter 15 has a great impact on not only Jim but the other characters as well. While it may seem inexplicable why a loving, caring father, as Mr. Shimerda most decidedly was, would leave his family helpless and bereaved in the middle of the worst winter in ten years, his action is understandable when considered as a last, desperate attempt at communication. While Mr. Shimerda was unable to make his family prosper, by killing himself he is making one final plea for help. His neighbors will literally have to take care of his family now and help them survive the winter and coming spring. They will know that the Shimerda situation is dire and will realize exactly how much assistance the family needs. Paradoxically, by killing himself and depriving his family of their head of household, he is ensuring that his wife and children will be thoroughly taken care of. America as being the land of opportunity wasn't meant for men like Mr. Shimerda who drowned in the unforgiving elements and landscape of the American frontier.