Seize the Day: Novel Summary: Chapter VII
Wilhelm runs back to the hotel and goes to Tamkin's room. There is no sign of Tamkin. He calls the lobby, but Tamkin is not there. He calls his father's room, but Dr. Adler is not there. He goes down to the health club and finds his father receiving a massage. He asks him whether he received the note asking him to pay Wilhelm's rent. Dr. Adler replies that he received it, but tells Wilhelm he will have to ask someone else for the money. Under questioning from his father, Wilhelm admits that he has been cheated by Tamkin. His father says that he warned him, and Wilhelm admits that he gets burned again and again. He says he is stupid. Dr. Adler is close to losing his temper and says he does not want to listen to the details. Wilhelm does his best to wring a sympathetic word out of his father, without success. Dr. Adler tells him to leave.
Back in the lobby, Wilhelm is given an urgent message to call his wife. He calls her, and she complains that he sent her a postdated check. They argue. Wilhelm protests that he has no money and is doing his best. He tells her he that the next day he is going to see a couple of men about job opportunities. Margaret tells him he should go back to Rojax, since no new company will want to hire him at his age. He says they do not need him, and why should he go back anyway, since Margaret does not lift a finger to help support herself. He tells her she will have to get a job, but she rules that out, saying that their two sons, ages fourteen and ten, need a parent at home. He begs her to be more easy on him, asking how she can treat him like that. He is becoming very agitated and bangs his knuckles against the wall. He accuses her of committing a crime against him. She hangs up.
Upset, Wilhelm tries to pull the telephone from the wall, then he hurries down the stairs and into the street, into the afternoon sunlight. He swears he will get a divorce if it is the last thing he does, and vows to start again with Olive.
He comes upon a funeral and thinks he sees Tamkin in the crowd of mourners, but he is mistaken. Carried along by the pressure of the crowd he finds himself in a chapel. He stands by the wall and looks toward the coffin and the slow line that is moving past it. He joins the line and gazes down at the corpse. Unable to leave, he remains beside the coffin, studying the dead man. He begins to cry and cannot stop. He is the only one in the chapel who is crying, and people assume he is a relative. He goes on crying, sinking "deeper than sorrow . . . toward the consummation of his heart's ultimate need."
In this last chapter, the water and drowning imagery that has been almost constant throughout the novel reaches its climax. Wilhelm goes through a symbolic drowning. Everything leads up to it. In his telephone conversation with Margaret, he feels (not for the first time) he is suffocating and cannot breathe. At the height of the dispute, "he had scarcely enough air in his lungs to speak in a whisper." When he goes outside, the crowd is like a river that carries him in its current. It surges along, "the inexhaustible current of millions of every race and kind pouring out." The sidewalks "were wider than any causeway."
At the funeral, Wilhelm feels grief for a dead man he never knew in life, and this allows him to glimpse the same kind of communion with all men that he had briefly experienced in the subway tunnel in Chapter V: "A man-another human creature, was what first went through his thoughts." His own grief then bursts through and he weeps uncontrollably. The drowning imagery is unmistakable in the final paragraph: "the heavy sea-like music came up to his ears. . . . He heard it and sank deeper than sorrow." He is finally overwhelmed by his troubles, but at least he has sensed his kinship with other men (the bystander who wonders whether Wilhelm is the dead man's brother is stating a truth beyond what he knows). Possibly the drowning is like a baptism that leads to a rebirth, although this is not explicitly stated.