Summary and Analysis Chapter 15


This chapter returns the action to Faye's and Harry's home life; this is West's preparation for Harry's death. Homer will now play a larger role in Faye's life and become a competitor with Tod for her attention. Tod, however, is no by-stander; since Faye drove off alone, he looks for her at home. He finds that Harry is seriously ill and acting the way he did during Tod's and Homer's first meetings with him. As death approaches, Harry is still playing the sentimental clown, feeding elements of his illness into his role, and reminiscing about his old vaudeville days. Tod's observations of Harry lead him to reflect on the relationship between playacting and suffering, and he realizes that under their protective guises, actors probably suffer as much as anyone. But Tod does not apply this insight to Faye, who — he has just learned — has gone to the movies with Homer Simpson.

In this scene, Harry pretends to be suffering in order to protect himself from the real suffering. Aware that he is dying and that he is singing a swan song, he reminisces at length on how he once entered barrooms and told elaborate and self-mocking stories about his wife's betrayal and desertion of him. This "performance" reminds us that Harry brought up his little girl (Faye) by himself, a fact which introduces the pathos of the next chapter. Sadly, Harry's last words continue a vein of self-mocking pretense. As Faye enters and finds her father asleep, she may be showing some real concern for him or just using the situation as an excuse to get rid of Tod. Looking at the sleeping old man, Tod senses the decay of Harry's life. Harry's death, like his life, will provide Tod with further opportunities to continue pursuing Faye.

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