After Mr. Perls leaves the table, Dr. Adler tells Wilhelm that Perls has a very serious degenerative disease, and is to be pitied. He says he has learned to save his sympathy for real ailments, thus implying that he has no sympathy for Wilhelm's complaints. After Wilhelm finishes his breakfast, Dr. Adler continues to dwell on what he sees as Wilhelm's deficiencies. He does offer one piece of advice, that Wilhelm should visit the pool in the hotel, which is one of the finest in New York. His father believes in the therapeutic effects of massage and hydrotherapy. Wilhelm says he does not like city life anymore, even though he was raised in New York. He prefers life in the country. His father suggests that if he feels that way, he should get out of the city. He also advises him to cut down on the drugs he takes and tells him he makes too much of his problems. This does not stop Wilhelm finally confiding in him, telling him about the insurance policies that he must pay. Dr. Adler says that he is giving his wife too much money, to which Wilhelm replies that he does not want his children to lack anything. Dr. Adler then says that his daughter has been asking him for money so she can rent a gallery for an exhibition of her paintings. But he will not give her anything because he does not think she has any artistic talent.
Wilhelm complains again about Margaret, saying she is trying to finish him off. His father thinks that is absurd. He believes Margaret is trying to get Wilhelm back by use of financial pressure. Wilhelm explains that four years ago, when he and his wife separated, he gave her as much as he could, trying to show goodwill. But she would not even let him have his dog, which he was very fond of. She keeps demanding more from him. He even paid for her to go back to college and earn a degree. Dr. Adler tells him to get a good lawyer, but Wilhelm says he already has one, but the situation still does not improve. He says she hates him and he feels that she is strangling him. Dr. Adler becomes impatient, but Wilhelm continues. He says he was a slave from the day he met her. His father tells him it is all his own fault. Wilhelm protests but eventually tries to appease his father by pointing out that Dr. Adler was successful, whereas, he, Wilhelm has never been successful. But Dr. Adler responds angrily, saying that he succeeded because he worked hard; he was not self-indulgent and lazy. Wilhelm says he is not lazy, but his father continues to pile on the criticism. Wilhelm tells him he is being very unfair. He says he tried to make his marriage work, but he just could not live with Margaret. Finally, he took the initiative and left her.
Dr. Adler presses him on why he lost his job at Rojax. He does not believe Wilhelm left voluntarily. He thinks there may be complications involving a woman, but Wilhelm denies this. He is distressed that his attempt to win a sympathetic word from his father has resulted in an inquisition. Finally, Wilhelm admits he was involved with another woman whom he wanted to marry, but she got tired of waiting for the divorce. Dr. Adler remains unsympathetic, and Wilhelm finally expresses his frustration. He complains that his father always wants to shift the blame on to him. He asks why his father starts on a discussion at all, if he doesn't want to help his son. He is close to tears, but he holds them back. Dr. Adler asks him what he expects, and Wilhelm replies that he expects some help. He accuses his father of having no affection for him. His father admits that he does not like the way his son behaves. He even criticizes him for enlisting in the Army during World War II, when he could have had a deferment. Finally, he says outright that he cannot give Wilhelm any money. If he did, there would be no end to it. He does not want to carry anyone on his back. Miserable, Wilhelm tells him to keep his money.
This chapter focuses on the theme of the conflict between father and son. Nothing works for Wilhelm in his desire to win some sympathy. Dr. Adler has a closed heart in regard to his son, and the relationship has been too distant too long for any progress to be made. The two men simply do not understand each other. Wilhelm guesses that his father is critical of him because he is ashamed of him, but he does not guess the extent of Dr. Adler's disgust with his son's slovenly appearance and vulgar manners and habits. In contrast, the older man is always neat and tidy and impeccably dressed. For his part, Dr. Adler cannot understand how Wilhelm has got into the mess he is in. Dr. Adler gives the impression of a man who is always in charge of things and lives life on his own terms. He cannot understand how Wilhelm allows Margaret to have so much control over his life. He also cannot understand why, since he had no difficulty in making money, his son cannot do so as well. Dr. Adler has a strong work ethic which Wilhelm has found it hard to match. This must have been an early point of contention between them, since Wilhelm, rather than doing the hard work of finishing college, went to Hollywood in search of quick money and fame.
Now that Wilhelm has suffered what he feels is a final rejection by his father, he will seek out Dr. Tamkin, the man he has adopted as his surrogate father.
Seize the Day: Novel Summary: Chapter III