Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews March 5, 2024
February 27, 2024
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
Three of the everyman’s former colleagues suffer from poor health in quick succession. A creative supervisor named Brad Karr is hospitalized for suicidal depression. Ezra Pollock has terminal cancer at age seventy. The everyman’s boss Clarence Spraco, who has been ill for many years, has died of a myocardial infarct. The everyman calls Clarence’s wife Gwen to send his condolences and they share some memories of Clarence and of Nancy. Gwen thanks the everyman for calling and tells him the phone has been ringing for two days. She does not feel alone.
The everyman calls Brad Karr’s room at the psychiatric hospital, remembering when he and Brad had worked together as young men on a highly successful commercial campaign. The everyman asks Brad how he is doing. Brad is stoic about his situation though his voice is slow and full of hopelessness. Brad and the everyman reminisce about their careers at the ad agency, which cheers Brad up. He speaks optimistically about his recovery. After hanging up, the everyman is not sure if Brad actually remembered their times together, or if he will make it out of the hospital. He then calls Ezra Pollock. Ezra, though terminally ill, sounds cheerful on the phone. He tells the everyman he has no time to be depressed because he is writing a memoir of the advertising business. They reminisce about working together, make plans to meet for lunch, and discuss Ezra’s pain and treatments. Ezra says that his terminal diagnosis cured him of writer’s block. The everyman tells Ezra he is rooting for him and gives him his number, telling him to call any time. After the exhausting phone calls, all the everyman wants to do is call Nancy and, impossibly, his mother and father.
The everyman goes to the hospital for a check-up. A sonogram reveals that his second carotid artery is obstructed and requires surgery. This will make it the seventh year in a row the everyman has had to be hospitalized. Ezra Pollock has died. The everyman is not too worried about his surgery because he is familiar with the hospital and the surgeon. He does not tell Nancy about the upcoming operation. He tries unsuccessfully to locate Maureen, his former nurse. He thinks of Howie, who he has not called in a long time. The everyman believes he has lost Howie in the same way he lost Phoebe and harmed his children’s peace, through his own actions. He begins to beat his chest in remorse and despair at his pointless, self-harming behavior. Years before, the everyman, Phoebe, and Nancy stayed on Howie’s ranch in Santa Barbara while Howie and his family were on holiday. The everyman wonders if he can ask to stay in the guest room at the ranch for a couple of months while he works out where to go next. He tries to call Howie, but the phone goes to the answering machine. Howie’s youngest son Rob calls back to tell the everyman Howie and his wife are in Tibet. The everyman believes they are in Santa Barbara and Howie simply does not want to take his call. Rob explains that Howie went on business to Hong Kong before going travelling to Tibet and that they will be gone for another three weeks. The everyman politely refuses Rob’s offer of passing on a message by email.
The everyman determines that he will have to manage on his own. At almost three quarters of a century, he now lives with an unforeseen reality that he is no longer alluring to women. He tries not to miss them too much. He once felt that the missing parts of his life would return to make him whole again, but now it is clear that, like other elderly people, he is in the process of losing more of himself and will have to live life to its end through a slow deterioration and melancholy. It is time for him to worry about oblivion.
Sections 25 and 26 are defined by the everyman’s attempts to connect with those who are suffering. In each of these conversations, with Gwen, Brad, and Ezra, the everyman cannot fully provide open and honest consolations. With Gwen, the everyman expresses regret that he couldn’t share his fond memories of Clarence for his obituary, while at the same time choosing not to reveal the less morally upright things Clarence did for him, such as provide advice on the everyman’s affair with his secretary. Speaking with Brad, the everyman is aware his former colleague is either lying or confused about how long he has been in the hospital, though he does not press him on this fact. He doubts Brad’s memory and ability to leave the hospital. In truth, their conversation has been surface-level only. After two hard conversations in which the everyman has withheld his feelings to provide consolation, the conversation with Ezra rings false, and we assume he is providing false assurance, just as Ezra is trying to play down his terminal diagnosis. The everyman matches his cheerfulness, but there is no room for honesty except in his own head.
The metaphor of old age as a battle appears twice in these sections. The first time, it is used by Gwen. She tells the everyman of her husband’s exhaustion after his long illnesses. According to her, old age is an unrelenting war that takes place right as a person’s strength is failing them. Instead of agreeing, the everyman changes the subject. Later, worn out and depressed by his attempts to make small talk and remain cheerful for his friends, the everyman rephrases Gwen’s adage. For him, old age is a ubiquitous cruelty, a battle that cannot be won. Everyone he knows who is older has their story of suffering illness and death, and it does not matter whether they faced it with stoicism or blank terror, as everything in the end is taken from them. According to the everyman, old age is worse than a fight, it is a slaughter.
The idea that old age is a pitiless march towards the grave is undercut by the ways in which the everyman, in his old age, is behaving. With the forced cheerfulness and lack of honesty displayed in these conversations, old age could be viewed instead as an advertising campaign. Just like in advertisements, the mundane, anguished truth is concealed or overwritten by happy images, references to the past, and hope for the future to “sell” the idea that fulfilment is possible. Sometimes positivity comes from the sufferer, sometimes from a well-wisher. In earlier sections, such as 21-24, we saw the everyman attempting to make the best of his life through reliance on nostalgia and self-deception regarding his seductive powers. Distraction, via painting and dreams of sexual prowess, paper over the sad reality of actual day-to-day experience. The reality, of gradual weakening and loneliness, is enhanced by a more palatable fiction of moving to a new location, seducing a young woman, or exploring new artistic pursuits. Ezra, ad man to the end, sells this image to the everyman by cheerfully telling of his final creatively-rich exploits.
There are other, more charitable ways of looking at the lies the everyman tells himself and tells and hears from others. We can frame these behaviors, from sharing nostalgic moments to concealing doubts over whether a person can ever recover, as either “magical thinking” or simple human kindness. Magical thinking, defined by Joan Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking, is a way of coping with grief by ignoring concrete reality in favor of the possibility of impossible things happening. For example, the persistent idea that a dead loved one will suddenly walk in the door alive and well. In this view, those suffering find ways to believe that things will improve or are improving, in the face of evidence to the contrary. Alternatively, lies are a collective social good, used to spare feelings and allow privacy for an inconsolable grief. It is notable that the everyman only really lashes out at the lies in his conversations afterwards to himself, when he is tired and upset. While speaking to others about his medical problems he often maintains a calm and warm demeanor, which suggests he too does not want to break through the superficial veneer that holds everything up.
Once again afflicted by ill health, and suffering more than ever in his loneliness, the everyman’s stoicism breaks down. Illness has become routine, and he does not even tell Nancy about the upcoming second carotid operation, which will be the one which ends his life. The everyman, realizing he has irrationally cut the innocent Howie out of his life, and that his own foolishness is the cause of his own loneliness, physically beats himself in the chest. He is symbolically beating the organ which failed him both medically and spiritually. This is the heart which keeps threatening to stop beating and the heart which does not allow him to keep steadfast in brotherly or romantic love. When his efforts to make amends fail because Howie is travelling, the everyman feels he has no one to rely on and that nothing stands between him and the grave. From this point on, denial and sadness give way, slowly, to acceptance.