page 1 of 2
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.
Take a Study Break!