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MonkeyNotes-Seize the Day by Saul Bellow
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Chapter 2

Summary

Before entering the dining room, Wilhelm picks up his mail from the desk clerk. He realizes that the mail must contain the bill for his rent, which he cannot pay since all his money is tied up in his venture with Dr. Tamkin. He, therefore, needs his father's help, which he knows he will not receives. As a result, he mentally accuses Dr. Adler of selfishness and meanness. As if to corroborate his claims, he recalls a time when his father had forgotten the date of his own wife's death.

Wilhelm turns his attention returns to the mail in his hand. He finds a letter from his wife, from whom he is estranged. Her letter is a protest against the recent post-dated check that he has sent her. She also demands that he pay the enclosed premiums on their son's educational insurance policies. Of course, he has no money to do so, which adds to his misery. He had taken care of his children, even planning a trust fund for them; but now he has to rethink the future for him and his family because of the lack of money. Filled with tension, Wilhelm finally enters the dining room, putting an end to his long delay in meeting his father for breakfast.

In truth, Wilhelm's father has little fondness for his son. He considers him a whining, overweight, jittery, unkempt bungler. Wilhelm brings this judgement upon himself by his strange behavior. He is often seen pinching out the end of his cigarette and putting the butt in his pocket. Wilhelm is also a careless, insensitive driver with a filthy car; his father hates to go anywhere with him. Wilhelm's room is also filthy, and his appearance is disheveled. He uses an electric razor to avoid touching water. Unfortunately, Wilhelm does not think that any of his behavior is odd.


In the dining room, the mood for breakfast is casual, at times almost light-hearted, at least on the surface. Wilhelm sees his father sitting at a table in a "sunny bay;" he is seated with Mr. Perls, whom Wilhelm dislikes. He refers to his father's friend as a "damn frazzled-faced herring with his dyed hair and his 33 fish teeth and this drippy moustache." Wilhelm, with apprehension, joins the two men. When the conversation turns to money, Wilhelm mentally condemns both of them for their transparent greed. At the same time, he lies to his father about his own financial condition, not yet wanting to reveal the truth. He is then disgusted with himself that he lies to please his father and to impress Mr. Perls. His reaction to the entire conversation is his usual feeling of "congestion;" he feels he can barely breathe.

The conversation turns to the dubious credentials of Dr. Tamkin, and Adler and Perls laugh about the man. Their laughter causes Wilhelm great despair because he realizes he has been foolish to trust Tamkin with his money. To hide his fear, Wilhelm half- heartedly joins in the laughter, a "panting laugh, an expression of exhaustion." The scene ends as Wilhelm thinks anxiously about the opening of the stock market and what that day's trading would have in store for him.

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