The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

by Michael Chabon

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Part III, Chapters 1–5

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Last Updated on March 16, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1293

Chapter One 

Joe has been drawing for a week and is physically tired from doing so. With the comic complete, the pages will now be inked by Marty Gold and then taken to an Iroquois plant to be colored. They will then be turned into print and sent to newsstands. It is 1940, and it has just been announced that some French Jews are being transported to Germany. 

As the situation in Europe escalates, Joe’s work in The Escapist comics grows more explicitly political. The villains are now openly referred to as “Germans.” The Escapist and his gang fight all across occupied Europe. In the most recent issue they are attacking the panzer divisions and storm troopers of the Wehrmacht. Joe’s battle scenes are remarkably brutal. 

Joe and Anapol meet to discuss the series. Joe asks if Anapol has heard about Vichy. Anapol asks what Joe has heard from his family; he does get letters, but they say very little. Anapol says that he’s glad Joe is able to express his feelings through his drawings, but he does worry about the violence in the comics. He also worries about Joe and tells him to get some sleep, but Joe says he has an appointment. 

Chapter Two 

Joe now reads a lot of comics, but today he cannot concentrate on them. He is irritated with Anapol, who is now very rich, and he dreads his appointment at the German consulate. He is annoyed that so much of the money from the comics goes to Anapol and that those funds cannot do anything to change the situation in Europe. 

Joe has visited the German consulate repeatedly, as well as various other groups, trying to determine what can be done for his family back in Prague. He is now an approved permanent resident and wishes to bring his family to the USA on this basis. The situation for Jews in Czechoslovakia is deteriorating, and he is increasingly concerned. 

One day, Joe takes the ferry across the Hudson to Hoboken. He sees several families being reunited at the port and wishes his family might suddenly arrive there, too. At the German Consulate, the Adjutant is as usual of little help in explaining how the Kavaliers might escape. He also says that he has been transferred to Holland. But he does have news: Joe had been called to an appointment because his father has died. 

Joe, in shock, telephones the office and tells Sammy the news. He then says he is on his way to Canada. He hangs up on Sammy and asks the bartender—he is phoning from a bar—how to get to Canada. He says he is going to enlist in the RAF. 

Chapter Three 

Instead of returning home, Joe goes straight to the train station and gets on a train to Canada. He thinks about his father, wondering how he died and what will now happen to the rest of his family. This thought makes him get off the train at Albany; he realizes he cannot abandon his efforts to help his mother and Thomas. 

Joe returns to New York, getting drunk on the train ride home, and calls Sammy. Sammy arrives in Longchamps bar, embraces Joe, and takes him to a secluded booth, where Joe begins to cry. Joe says that he is “worthless” and then declares that he is going to work. 

On their way there, Joe sees a man whom he is convinced is German. He spits at him. Sammy apologizes to the man and then realizes that he is Max Schmeling, the former world heavyweight champion. A fight ensues;...

(This entire section contains 1293 words.)

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Joe is crowded against an iron pillar and punched. Then Schmeling stalks off, and Sammy helps Joe onto a train and back to Palooka Studios. 

Chapter Four 

Although there are relatively few Germans in New York, Joe encounters a lot of them. He begins approaching Germans and asking them about conditions back home, seeking information about the situation in Prague.

A week after Joe’s meeting at the German Consulate, Sammy takes him to a Brooklyn Dodgers football game to try to cheer him up, but Joe cannot follow the game and is disinterested. Like the others there, he drinks. After a time, he realizes that he can hear Germans talking and sees that they are looking at him. When he thinks he hears the words “Jew bastard,” he stands, approaches the Germans, and starts a fight. He and Sammy are thrown out, but not before Joe has sustained considerable damage. 

At home, Ethel sews up the cut in Joe’s cheek, but this is only the beginning of his injuries. He begins going to German beer halls and social clubs to start fights. One day, he comes across a sign in a window: “ARYAN-AMERICAN LEAGUE.” Joe wishes he could burst in and attack everyone there, as the Escapist would.

He goes into a cafe opposite the building to watch it. When he sees nobody enter, he crosses the street and begins to pick the lock. Inside, he finds an empty office with a dead telephone line and piles of publications about National Socialism.

In the desk drawers are various bits and pieces, among them a cutting from Radio Comics #1 and a number of letters addressed to a man named Carl Ebling. On the bookcase, he finds all the published issues of The Escapist as well as a report to the League which identifies Joe and the other artists as “warmongering” and dangerous Jews. Oddly, however, Ebling seems to have begun to enjoy the comics. 

Joe is so engrossed in the memorandum that he does not hear Ebling come up the stairs and enter. He demands to know who Joe is, and Joe says he is Tom Mayflower. As Joe goes to leave, however, Ebling hits him over the head with a blackjack. Joe is so furious that he turns, throws Ebling against the wall, and knocks him out. He sketches the Escapist for Carl and leaves the drawing, signed, “Lots of luck, The Escapist.”

Chapter Five 

In October 1940, two key figures in the Empire State Building, where the comics company is based, are discussing a bomb threat they have received from “American Nazis.” They go down to Empire Comics on Floor 25 to evacuate everyone, but Joe refuses to leave. He has handcuffed himself to his drawing table. 

Smith, the building president, and Love, the chairman, decide to try talking to Joe. They offer him a drink, but Joe says he has too much work to do and is sure the bomb is a hoax. He explains about the Escapist, the comic’s huge circulation, and the Aryan-American League (AAL). At that point an old clock begins jangling in someone’s desk: this was the threat, not a bomb. 

Anapol arrives back from lunch and James Love proposes to him that the companies might team up to put The Escapist on the radio. Sammy arrives and asks Love whether he’d like to learn more about the Escapist. Love feels sorry for them, because they have signed away their rights to their characters. 

George asks Joe and Sammy for an update on the latest comic first. Then he asks whether the hoax at the building had anything to do with Joe. Joe thinks of the AAL but says it probably isn’t related. George then says he wants to warn them that if The Escapist makes it to radio, Anapol may not be legally obligated to pay them anything. He suggests they stop writing for Anapol at all, create another character and go elsewhere to negotiate a better contract.


Part II, Chapters 7–12


Part III, Chapters 6–15