It is also through this chapter that Dr. Tamkin begins to come to life. He is different from the other characters in the book and seems to be a dreamer, much like Tommy. He is, too, charming, in many ways, much like Tommy is or had once been. In the first chapter, the reader was told that, "Wilhelm had great charm still." In this second chapter we learn the reasons why others might find Dr. Tamkin untrustworthy. For example, Tamkin exaggerates and is perhaps a liar. Here, we learn that Tamkin fantasizes just like Tommy. Mr. Perls tells of the time Tamkin described an underwater suit he wanted to invent so that a man could walk on the floor of the Hudson in case of an atomic attack. This particular statement is significant for various reasons. First of all, again, simply to reiterate, it illustrates that Tamkin is a dreamer. Secondly, it foreshadows, in many ways, that Tamkin will help Tommy. The reason being that the, in this case, this suit he wants to invent serves as a symbol for the figurative "wet suit" he will provide Tommy with, in order to prevent him from "drowning."
Furthermore, America begins to be called into the book as a thematic device. Tommy's response to his father's chastising of Dr. Tamkin for the underwater suit idea is as follows, "Inventors are supposed to be like that. I get funny ideas myself. Everybody wants to make something. Any American does." This statement not only connects Tommy and Tamkin, it also illustrates a certain kind of America—a positive America, a young America, a post-WWII, post- depression America, an America that has just recently entered an age of technology and new industry. It perhaps also points to the fact that although the descriptions of Dr. Adler as a cruel man must be, sometimes, brought into question, it seems to be true that Adler has been a stifling force in Tommy's life. He has not allowed him to develop his "funny ideas," perhaps because they were unlike what Adler views as the image of "success" and prosperity. Adler would much rather have his son be a "salesman" who makes "five figures" than be an eccentric, an actor, a creative being. Finally, it is important to remember that water is important in this book, as it is a recurring motif that carries symbolic meaning. Water is elusive and dangerous and also quite exemplary of flux. Therefore, it should not seem strange if everything in this book seems unstable, if nothing can be read straight away, if the point of view changes constantly. All of this is Bellow's intent, and exists to point further to the character and personality of the protagonist and his "day of reckoning."