For instance, the father seems to have the mindset of an immigrant: work hard and you will succeed. Also, one might describe his mindset as illustrative of the protestant work ethic. America, however, after the war was a prosperous America, and, therefore, Wilhelm, who grew up during the depression and has reached middle age during this time of money and prosperity, has a strange relationship with money. Like many of his generation, he has a strong desire for it, places inordinate emphasis on it, and, at the same time, holds a cynicism toward it. He views it, at times, as an evil.
Another example of the way Wilhelm and his father fail to understand each other is when his father tells him that he makes too much of his problems and that there are more serious things such as illness and accident. Tommy rejects this. However, later in the novel, the reader will see him accept the same advice from Dr. Tamkin. Dr. Tamkin, however, phrases it differently, he tells him not to "marry suffering." Language makes all the difference in communication. Significantly, Tommy and his father do not share the same language. His father's language is too concrete for him, whereas Tamkin's is more poetic and more attuned to Tommy's feelings. Tamkin, therefore, becomes Tommy's surrogate father because they share the same "language."
Dr. Adler is not the only one who misunderstands. Tommy also fails to understand his father. For example, Adler tells his son that his daughter, Tommy's sister has been asking him for money again to rent out a space in which to exhibit her paintings. He says, however, that he will not give it to her because she does not have talent. Adler is trying to illustrate a parallel and compare his son to his daughter. He tries to tell him, in his own way, that he will not give him money, just as he has not given Tommy's sister money. Tommy does not understand his father's way of communicating. Again, there is the problem of language.
Lastly, it is significant that his sister, Catherine, has also changed her name to Philippa. It is quite possible that this may imply that she too has tried to shed herself of her father, in some way. She has changed her first name, the one given to her possibly by her father, and has also shed herself of her last name, through marriage. We learn that she is married when Dr. Adler, in characteristic form, claims that he will not give her money and says, "let her husband pamper her."