Seize the Day: Novel Summary: Chapter IV
Wilhelm leaves the dining room in a state of confusion and self-disgust. His feelings are hurt and he feels ashamed of his own weakness. He is still angry with his father, thinking that he is using his money to have power over his son. Wilhelm believes that if his father were poor, he would help him and show him how much he cared.
In the lobby he encounters Dr. Tamkin. Although he is uncertain what to make of the man, he realizes that he has no choice but to trust him in the financial venture they have set out upon. He thinks back to the events of the past few days involving him and Tamkin. When they had invested the money in lard, their partnership was supposed to be an equal one. But Tamkin was two hundred dollars short on his share; he promised he would make up the amount the following week. Wilhelm had misgivings about going through with the deal but he overcame them. He wrote a check for one thousand dollars, meaning that he was investing seven hundred and Tamkin only three hundred. Then he had signed a document giving Tamkin power of attorney to speculate with his money. He then worried that this may give Tamkin power over other assets of his, but the manager of the brokerage firm assures him that that is not so. It is a moot point anyway, since Wilhelm does not have any other assets.
In the lobby, Wilhelm tells Tamkin he had some words with his father. Tamkin replies that conflict between father and son is to be expected. He tells Wilhelm about a telephone consultation he has just had with one of his patients, a young man who is having a problem involving his father. His father does not think the man is his own son, since he has discovered that his wife has been having an affair for twenty-five years with a family friend. Wilhelm is always hearing stories like this from Tamkin, who believes that everyone in the hotel has some kind of secret history.
Wilhelm is in a hurry to get to the stock market, but Tamkin says it is too early. He reassures Wilhelm that the price of lard will go up, and overcomes his doubts with some slick talk filled with the jargon of psychology. They go to the dining room so Tamkin can have breakfast. He continues to talk about the strange and sensational case history of his patient. Wilhelm listens incredulously but it puts him in a good mood. He forgets his troubles with his father. Tamkin insists that the facts are always sensational, but people do not always realize this about their own lives. He goes on to say that he works not for the money but for spiritual compensation. He likes to try to bring people into the present moment, rather than allowing them to live in the past or the future. Wilhelm is impressed by this, and asks Tamkin some questions about some of his other clients. Tamkin keeps one client in the here-and-now by teaching him Greek; then he claims to have been a psychiatrist to the Egyptian royal family. Wilhelm tries to decide how to take all of Tamkin's outlandish stories and claims. He doubts whether they are all true, but he likes to listen to Tamkin talk about the deeper things of life. Nonetheless, he becomes agitated and has to swallow a pill to calm him down. Tamkin explains another one of his theories, that within everyone are two souls, the real soul and the pretender soul. The pretender soul is egotistical and selfish, but hides behind a pretense of love and altruism. It fits in with what society expects, but it is fake. The true soul loves truth and turns against the pretender and wants to kill it.
Wilhelm listens willingly. He keeps doubting whether Tamkin is trustworthy, but this does not stop him wanting to hear the man talk more. He is awed by the description of the two souls because he knows he is in the grip of the pretender soul. He is not really himself. He is tormented by these ideas and hopes that Tamkin will give him some advice that will help him transform his life.
Tamkin lets on that for some time he has been treating Wilhelm without telling him. Wilhelm is both pleased and alarmed by this news. Tamkin tells him he has a lot of guilt in him, which Wilhelm has to admit is true.
They leave the dining room, and Tamkin gives Wilhelm a copy of a poem he wrote the day before. At the hotel desk, Wilhelm leaves his hotel bill in an envelope for his father. He writes a note asking his father to pay it.
As they go outside into Broadway, Wilhelm asks what happens in the market if the losses are bigger than the deposit. Tamkin tells him not to worry; the system will not allow him to go into debt. It will take him out of the market automatically. Wilhelm reads the poem Tamkin gave him, which seems to be something about greatness, power and the true status of the soul. He thinks it is illiterate nonsense, and wonders why Tamkin gave it to him. He loses all faith in him. But he feels he must say something to Tamkin in response, and his mind races, trying to figure out what on earth the poem means. He makes a polite comment, and Tamkin asks if he understands the poem. Wilhelm asks him a question, and Tamkin explains that the hero of the poem is sick humanity, which would be great if it would only open its eyes. Tamkin also says that he wrote the poem for Wilhelm. He gives another explanation of the meaning of the poem, talking about the need to trust nature, and that there are no limits to the creativity of man. Wilhelm takes no notice. He is resigned to losing his money in the market. He thinks he needs a miracle to save him.
Just as the last chapter focused on Wilhelm's relations with his father, the focus of this chapter is Wilhelm's relationship with Dr. Tamkin. Tamkin is in some ways the opposite of Adler. When Wilhelm meets him he "found himself flowing into another channel." Adler is cold-hearted, rational, and practical. He keeps his emotions in check. In contrast, Tamkin is a visionary (or so he believes) who indulges in sweeping theories and explanations of human life and behavior. He is as outlandish, as extravagant, as Adler is respectable and self-contained. There is something of the supernatural about him. His eyes have a "hypnotic power." Wilhelm is drawn to Tamkin because he longs to believe in something. It is as if he is caught in a spell exerted by a magician. He knows intuitively that Tamkin is a charlatan, but he is charmed by him nonetheless. Tamkin tells him things he likes to hear, and although Wilhelm scoffs at much of it, occasionally Tamkin hits the nail on the head as far as Wilhelm's situation is concerned. His explanation of the conflict between the real soul and the pretender soul is an example of this. Wilhelm realizes that "Tommy," the name he adopted in Hollywood, is the pretender soul. The tragedy of Wilhelm is that he has no knowledge of his true self, or soul. He simply does not know who he is. His need to cling on to something-anything that gives him some hope- explains his conflicting attitude to Tamkin in this chapter.