Summary and Analysis
August 1977 (I)
During Paul’s guitar concert at school, David flashes back to the family’s Aruba trip. Paul and David’s fishing trip was cancelled. Walking on the beach, David found Norah’s bathing suit and concluded that she was with Howard. Paul, he suspects, knows about the affair too. David is angry but knows that his choice to send Phoebe away is the source of Norah’s adultery.
Paul plays his guitar so well that David feels overwhelmed with emotion and almost cries, out of love and grief. The music moves through him in waves. He loves Paul’s talent but worries about Paul’s future—music is an insecure profession. Norah says that David should let Paul do what he wants.
Paul is proud of his performance but suddenly turns cold toward Norah. They go home, and Paul locks himself in his room. David discovers that Paul has jumped out his bedroom window and headed off to a party. David drives there and picks up Paul, and they talk. Paul says that David doesn’t care about what happened between Norah and Howard. David tells Paul that music won’t help him make a living. Paul says that David doesn’t understand his dreams.
Back at the house, David takes Paul to the darkroom to show him his photos and that he understands art. He says that photography is an art of secrets. Paul, however, says that music has shown him that everything is connected. Distraught, David writes Caroline that he’d like to meet Phoebe. He develops and ruins a photo he took of Howard and Norah.
As Paul matures and discovers his talents and passions, his hopes for the future clash with his father’s vision of masculinity and adulthood. Though David is overwhelmingly impressed by Paul’s musical ability, his own fear of poverty makes him think Paul’s dreams are irresponsibly risky.
One reason Paul doesn’t respect his father’s vision for his future is that he thinks David doesn’t care about Norah’s affair. As a result, Paul views David’s understanding of manhood as hypocritical: David claims authority without exercising it, he believes. David’s vision of masculinity centers on control and stability, whereas Paul’s vision of masculinity centers on involvement and action.
These two visions of masculinity are represented by the art forms of photography and music. At this point in the novel, only men have practiced any form of art. (This will change when Phoebe becomes a weaver and Rosemary takes up paper-cutting.) The instruments—camera and guitar—therefore represent a masculine interaction with the world, two ways in which men can relate to others.
Significantly, the music in this chapter is described in terms of water: waves, undulations, and flows. These descriptions fit well with Paul’s argument that music is an art of connection through which he can “touch the pulse of the world.” An active and fluid intimacy open to change marks Paul’s mind-set. In contrast, David’s interaction with the world is ruled by secrets, by paralyzing ambiguity, and by distanced observation through technology.