Seize the Day
The chapter opens with a description of a carnival-like Broadway street scene that then jumps to the stock-market floor in flux. Tamkin and Tommy are in the market, observing the commodities they have invested in. Lard had gone down a great deal, which worried Tommy. However, Tommy is relieved by the fact that Tamkin had, without telling Tommy, invested in Rye also, which was on the rise. There are other men in the market that day, among them a blind, old man named Mr. Rappaport, who is constantly asking for help seeing the numbers before him.
Tommy wonders about Tamkin, about his personal life. Tamkin talks of love and Tommy thinks to himself that Tamkin talks about things that matter. It is in this chapter that Tommy is most excited by Tamkin he says that Tamkin excites and moves him, even comforts him. There are also moments of doubt, but they are fewer than in the previous chapter.
Tommy has an interior monologue about isolation and about language and communication. He then jumps into a memory of Times Square and how he felt close to humanity in the subway station. He claims to have felt a connection to some sort of "larger body."
Meanwhile, on the stock market floor the rye begins to rise and rise. Tommy wants to get out of it while they are ahead, but Tamkin tells him that they should not. Furthermore, Tamkin tells Tommy that he should remain in the here- and-now, that he should take risks. While Tamkin is telling him this Tommy worries but then jumps into a rare, wonderful memory of Margaret. He remembers being sick and being nursed to health by Margaret. This is not to say that Tommy stops questioning the action of not selling while he is ahead. If he sells now he will be only three hundred dollars out, as opposed to being out of his entire savings. He asks himself if he is being conned by Tamkin, if Tamkin is attempting to hypnotize him, keep his mind off of the selling of the commodities. Nevertheless, his last thought is with Margaret, not in the here- and-now but in memory. The section ends with Mr. Rappaport not being able to see the numbers of his wheat.
It is in this chapter that Tommy seems to be coming to some sort of understanding. He begins to comprehend things. He does not shed his mask completely nor has he completely saved himself from drowning, but, figuratively speaking, he is beginning to learn how to swim. It is evident that Tamkin's voice lies in the background of this chapter. Tamkin has become his guide, whether corrupt or fraudulent or not, and he is still a guide for Tommy.
The most significant action that occurs in this chapter occurs in memory. This is a paradox because Tamkin is consistently trying for Tommy to live in the here-and-now and, yet, it seems that healing is coming from memory. Perhaps the meaning of this paradox is two-fold. First, it could mean that Tommy will have to come to terms with his past, with layers of memory and seeming mistakes before he can access the present. Secondly, it may mean that, ultimately, Tommy will have to break away from Tamkin eventually, to come to self-healing and to a proper kind of rebirth. This is not to erase Tamkin as an instructor, it is simply to say that he is a stepping-stone and to be saved from drowning, he will have to eventually make the laps to save himself on his own.
There are two specific memories that are important in this chapter: the memory of his feeling in Times Square and the memory of Margaret nursing him to health during an illness. In the Times Square memory Tommy describes feeling connected to the people around him and to the "larger body" of humanity. He begins to feel an internal connection to the external world and, thus, the two halves of the soul begin to merge and unite (internal/external; real/pretender; natural/material). In short, he begins to become connected to the world that he has been isolated within. The memory is juxtaposed with a previous thought about Isolation. Tommy claims that people speak so many "languages" it is difficult to communicate. Still this thought is juxtaposed against the feeling of solidarity with the world in Times Square and capped off in the end with the following statement: "today, his day of reckoning, he consulted memory again and thought, I must go back to that [the feeling in Times Square]. That's the right clue and may do me the most good. Something very big. Truth, like." Truth, therefore lies in an understanding of self that comes with an understanding of the "larger body," that the self exists in.
The second memory is the memory of Margaret. In this memory Margaret nurses him back to health and reads to him. Importantly, she is reading to him, "somewhat unwillingly," a poem about love. This leaves the reader with both uneasiness and silent joy at Tommy's remembrance of love. The love is obvious because it lies within the lines of the poem and within the action of nursing. However, the uneasiness lies in Margaret's unwillingness. Also, the poem is about love but it is about someone who thought to leave someone else until they grew in love. In short there are many things about this memory that are not completely resolved. Much like the fact that after the Times Square memory, Tommy says that he did not feel that solidarity later in the day. Moreover, this chapter is not a chapter about Tommy having learned to swim but one in which he is in the process; it is a chapter not of full understanding but about the path to understanding.
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