The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

by Michael Chabon

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Part IV, Chapters 1–8

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Last Updated on March 16, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1360

Chapter One 

In 1941, Kavalier and Clay have their best year of earnings to date. Sammy buys himself a phonograph and eats out often, but he still has more money than he knows what to do with. Rosa, who has essentially moved in with the pair, suggests he should get married, but Sammy always has an excuse not to meet girls. He himself doesn’t know why he doesn't want to. 

He is working on a script for “Kid Vixen,” a comic about female boxers, and he broods over the fact that his mother thinks his vocation isn’t worthwhile. He does, however, look forward to a visit to the radio studio where soon-to-be-broadcast adaptation of The Escapist is being recorded.

Joe and Sammy meet the cast of The Escapist. The very tall and handsome Tracy Bacon will be playing Tom. Both Joe and Sammy think he looks and sounds the part. Joe has to leave, and he tells Sammy he doesn’t want to come back to Ethel’s for dinner with him—he would rather go out with Rosa. Sammy explains this to Bacon when he asks where Joe is going. Bacon then asks Sammy to come out with him for a drink. Because this is the first big part he has ever taken and he wants to be good, he would like Sammy to tell him all about the Escapist. 

Sammy is flattered to be addressed by a man like Bacon, but says he cannot, as he has promised to be at Ethel’s for dinner at six. 

Chapter Two 

Bacon persuades Sammy to get a drink, and the pair go to a bar and drink too much. As they talk, Sammy decides Bacon is lonely in New York. He takes Bacon home to Ethel’s and introduces him. They are late to dinner, but Bacon impresses Ethel by asking if he can help in the kitchen and then complimenting her food. 

Sammy tells his mother that Joe wanted to come but had an engagement with Rosa, whom he very much likes. He thinks Joe might stay in the country because of Rosa. He says he would like to meet someone nice, too. Ethel agrees that she would like this for him. 

Chapter Three 

Rosa wakes to find Joe looking at his naked reflection. She wonders if he is noticing that he has gained weight, becoming less skinny and more American. He is nervous because he is going to perform as a magician at Rosa’s cousin’s bar mitzvah, having performed at the Hoffmann reception the previous year. He is out of practice and fears that he will be made fun of. 

Rosa’s father appears with a brown suit for Joe and a tuxedo of his own to “add mystery” to the act. The three of them toast to “the Amazing Cavalieri,” Joe’s stage name, and Rosa’s father says he is welcome in the Saks family.

Chapter Four 

Joe’s last letter from his mother confirms that Thomas is on his way to America and that the family is as well as could be expected. She asks Joe to forget her and his grandfather, and says she will not write again but that she thinks of him always. 

Joe looks at the letter every day, feeling guilty about his love for Rosa and the fact that he has ceased to be in a constant state of misery.

Joe doesn’t tell Rosa about the letter. Rosa catches sight of it while Joe is setting up for the bar mitzvah performance, but Joe does not respond to her question about it. He puts on his new tuxedo and...

(This entire section contains 1360 words.)

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his mask.

A “strange… cry” echoes from the door of the venue, and Joe sees a white-jacketed waiter fleeing. 

Chapter Five 

While the Steel Gauntlet, Kapitan Evil, Swastika Man and their crew work in Europe, the Saboteur is based in Empire City with the Spy Queen. The couple are part of the United Snakes of America, a group which plots to disrupt and thwart the United States. 

The Saboteur rents a lair uptown. Tonight he is headed for the Pierre, where a bar mitzvah is about to begin. One night last year the Amazing Cavalieri performed there, and Carl Ebling—the Saboteur’s less interesting counterpart—established that this was Joe Kavalier.

Now, the Saboteur/Ebling stands outside the ballroom, head down. He is dressed as a member of staff to avoid being seen. He screws together his Exploding Triumph, a device which he will detonate later, during the act. 

Chapter Six 

Joe begins to perform; he does so meticulously and carefully but with little enthusiasm. Rosa wonders if he is troubled because of something in the mysterious letter. Harkoo, in the audience, notices that Joe is glancing continually around the room. 

Joe is nervous, because he saw Ebling dressed as a waiter. Ebling seemed to have abandoned New York, but now Joe is sure he is up to something nefarious. He smells smoke and then notices the burning device Ebling has set up. He excuses himself to the audience and goes to pour water onto the small fire, at which point Ebling launches himself at Joe, climbing onto his back.

The pair fall off the stage, and the device explodes, albeit not to great effect. Still, he and Ebling are taken to hospital, and Ebling is charged with attempted murder alongside a series of vandalizations and arsons. 

Rosa and her father help Joe back to the Harkoo house after he is released from the hospital. They carry Joe up to Rosa’s bedroom, put him in the bed, and leave him to sleep. When Joe wakes, he realizes that the letter has gone from his pocket.

The next day he searches the Pierre for it and asks at the Sinai Hospital, but it is nowhere to be found. 

Chapter Seven 

At one o’clock on a Wednesday morning, Sammy is “alone atop the city of New York,” watching the sky for aerial saboteurs. He is volunteering for the Army Interceptor Command. He whistles as he walks. The night is very quiet until it is suddenly interrupted by a loud rumble. 

One of the building’s elevators is making its way up. Sammy cannot think who might be in it. When the door opens, Tracy Bacon steps out and asks whether this is “Men’s Sportswear.” 

Sammy protests that he mustn’t be here, in a US Army facility, and Bacon jokes that he, as a Nazi spy, will certainly have to leave. But Sammy is pleased to see him and asks him to stay, even though he is now in “gross violation of the code.” 

Bacon, in evening wear, is astonished by the view. He appears to be drunk. He has also, to Sammy's surprise, brought dinner in bags. 

They go into the empty cafe and Bacon begins taking plates and bowls out of his bag. Sammy is amazed at the spread. He explains that his volunteering helps him assuage his guilty conscience. He tells Bacon that he perjured himself for Anapol. 

Bacon has just come from Helen Portola’s birthday party. Helen had mistakenly believed Bacon was going to propose to her. When he explained that he did not intend to, she punched him. The pair are watching lightning flash across the sky when Bacon kisses Sammy, and Sammy, although surprised, kisses him back.

Chapter Eight

Bacon, Sammy, Joe, and Rosa are in a taxi heading to the premiere of Orson Welles’s first film. Both Bacon and Rosa know him slightly. They gossip about whom he may be dating and laugh about the fact that the papers are always incorrect about whom Bacon is dating.

Sammy is astonished by the media presence and fanfare at the theater when they arrive. The four of them enter the theater together, and Rosa notes that perhaps one day, she, Joe, and Thomas will all be in the Hollywood Hills together, in a bungalow.


Part III, Chapters 6–15


Part IV, Chapters 9–17