He wandered through the house finding everywhere signs of his own exclusion. His son now had a desk, as befitted all young students. He thought he heard an Arctic wind but it was the sound of the housemaid Brigit pushing an electric suction cleaner across the rug in the parlor. What was the strangest of all was the mirror in his bath: it gave back the gaunt, bearded face of a derelict, a man who lacked a home.
Father's reactions to the changed circumstances he finds upon his return from his trip to the Arctic reflect his growing sense of alienation from his family and his town. In the relatively short time of his absence, his family's dynamics and interactions have undergone considerable change. Again, Doctorow employs the metaphor of duplication to express individual characterizations. The mirror provides an opportunity for self-reflection that, in this instance, depresses Father. His wife's facility with the duties of the family business in his absence, as well as his son's growing maturity and competence, create in Father the feeling that he is unneeded, consequently undermining his sense of his own masculinity.