This very fist chapter illustrates many important points about the novella itself and about its characters. First of all, the novel's point of view is of great significance because it affects the novels tone, mood, and character studies. The point of view is primarily a third person omniscient narrator. However, when the narration travels into the mind and thoughts of Tommy Wilhelm, it often fluctuates in point of view and often takes on the first person. As a third person, omniscient narrative voice, the narrative also journeys into the minds of other characters but, mostly, everything is seen through Tommy's perspective. This makes it difficult to surmise what is Tommy's imagination and interpretation and what is reality. Moreover, the tone of the novel often verges on an ironic mimesis of Tommy's voice, that is, there are points in which the narrator makes fun of Tommy. This complicates the novel but it is important to keep all of this in mind while reading.

Also in this chapter the symbolism of water and the drowning motif are touched upon, both are devices that will be used throughout the novel. For instance, at the beginning, Tommy is descending in an elevator into what seems to be the billowy ocean depth of the lobby. For instance, the elevator is described as sinking and the carpet of the lobby is described as "billow[ing] toward Wilhelm's feet." The French drapes of the lobby are like sails in the sun. All of this water imagery points to the fact that throughout the novel Tommy will be seen as a drowning man, a man under strain and duress.

Significantly, the conversation that Rubin and Tommy have begins with talking about clothing. This points to the fact that appearances are important in the novel. Clothes point to surface and in a novel that begins with an attempt on Tommy's behalf to "conceal," this conversation, thus, proves symbolic.

Many characteristics of Wilhelm (Tommy) are illustrated early on. One of particular significance is that he cares deeply what his father thinks of him, that he is still a "boy" in this sense. He is very much need of his father's approval and, at this point in his life, of his support. As illustrated above, Tommy is a man who is under a lot of stress. Nevertheless, the reader learns that he tends to "victimize" himself. For instance, when the failing stock venture between Tommy and Dr. Tamkin is mentioned, Tommy becomes stressed that the stock is falling and then says that it was Dr. Tamkin had got him into this." The most important part about this statement is that one realizes immediately that Tommy is quick to play a blame game. He often places his own choices on the shoulders of others. Still, it is important not to simplify this character and say that he is a martyr. For, it is at the end of this self-same chapter that Tommy admits to having made mistakes in his live, in other words, he takes credit for his own failings. "For all the time I have wasted I am very sorry," he says.

The character of Maurice Venice also plays an important role in this opening chapter. It is through him that we see that Tommy was once quite handsome and charming. More importantly, however, one should see Maurice Venice as a double for Tommy, as a picture of the man Tommy has the dangerous potential of becoming. First of all, Venice is described as the "obscure failure of an aggressive and powerful clan." Tommy, just like Venice, is the "failure" of a family in which everyone is educated but him and in which he is the "failed" son of a "successful," money-making father. Also, Venice is a liar. Venice is truly a "pimp," who fronts as a talent scout. Tommy, too, can be a liar. He lies to his parents and tells them that Venice claims that he has undeniable talent. Moreover, and perhaps more subtle, Venice is, just like Tommy, a drowning man. His name, Venice, conjures up canals and water, therefore making them deeper doubles.