Last Updated on March 16, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1223
Joe, Sammy, and Julie relax in the flat they broke into. Joe and Sammy lie down and light cigarettes, and Joe tells the story of Kornblum, the Golem, and his escape. This sparks in Sammy the idea of “the Escapist,” a superhero who is “here to free the world.” The boys are both enthused by the concept but find themselves returning to the question of the character’s essential motivations.
Alois Berg—Big Al, who is over eight feet tall—is in the theater where his act is performing. The accoutrements of his craft are backstage, where his young assistant, Tom Mayflower, has put them. There is a problem with the water tank, which Tom needs to fix.
Omar, a turbaned man defined by his “stealth,” arrives. Tom asks why Al and Omar why the two of them have been behaving oddly all day. He also asks what the “Iron Chain” is. They do not answer his question. Tom succeeds in fixing the tank—or so he thinks.
Five minutes after eight, Tom knocks on the dressing room door of his uncle, Max Mayflower, who is uncharacteristically late. He tells Max not to take the crowd for granted, and Max goes onstage as Misterioso, his stage act. After he emerges from the water tank, however, he is bleeding, and there is a bullet hole through the tank. Max declares that “the show must go on,” gives Tom a gold key, and tells him he must do “the coffin.” This means that Tom will be bound and chained inside a coffin from which he must escape. He succeeds and receives overwhelming applause, which cheers him until he realizes that his uncle is dying.
Before Max dies, he explains that he was once a playboy from a wealthy family, but when he ran up huge gambling debts, he was taken prisoner and held for ransom. He tried and tried to escape but could not. He dreamed—while awake—that a man in a white suit entered and unlocked him. A gangster then arrived and shot the man. Max incapacitated the gangster and found that the mysterious man was dying. The man gave Max his golden key, which Max then spent years trying to find a lock for. His years of work with locksmiths led to his becoming Misterioso, an illusionist persona who specializes in unlocking himself.
Max found the Ogre, a moniker for Big Al, chained in a sideshow in Canada and purchased his freedom with the golden key. Then another man in white appeared and told him that he—and the mysterious man who had freed Max—belonged to the League of the Golden Key, a group who roamed the world to procure others’ freedom. They were opposed by the Iron Chain. Max explains to Tom that it is the Iron Chain who have orchestrated Max’s death.
Tom realizes that all current members of the company, including Tom himself, are people who have been liberated by Max. Max charges Tom to repay his “debt of freedom. You have the key.” Tom then swears that he will fight the Iron Chain as “the Escapist.”
Joe and Sammy have been walking for hours, inventing the Escapist. Joe says he wishes the character were real. He imagines Tom wiping out the whole “nest of Iron Chain vipers” and defeating the Nazis.
Sammy says he’s convinced that he and Joe will make a huge amount of money from the Escapist, and that the character will become so powerful that he will, in a sense, be real. Sammy has also acquired some Czech-language newspapers for Joe, in case they contain any helpful information about what is happening to the Jewish community in Czechoslovakia.
The actual occupants of the broken-into apartment—Jerry Glovsky, Marty Gold, and Davy O'Dowd—return around ten with food and wine. They refer to the apartment as “Palooka Studios.” Jerry is displeased to find Julie and his friends there; he asks how they got in and why they are using...
(The entire section contains 1223 words.)
Unlock This Study Guide Now
Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay study guide. You'll get access to all of the The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.
- Chapter Summaries
- Critical Essays
- Teaching Guide