Last Updated on March 16, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1384
Orson Welles tells Sammy that he enjoys The Escapist and reads every issue. At the after-party, Joe dances with Dolores del Rio and Rosa with Joseph Cotton. The film is Citizen Kane, and it has a tremendous effect on Sammy. The film’s structure inspires him, and Joe agrees that the structure of the film represents a “total blending of narration and image,” which is the fundamental element of the comic book medium.
However, Sammy says that he doesn’t think they could ever achieve anything on this scale with comic books, which are an inferior medium. Bacon suggests that it isn’t comic books which are inferior but rather Sammy’s sense of his own abilities.
After this, Sammy and Joe immediately go to work on a “prismatic” Escapist story. They approach Anapol with their notes, but Anapol has something to tell them first: Parnassus have bought movie rights to The Escapist. He then asks whether what they have to offer will make the company more money.
Joe and Sammy argue that it will, because their new approach will draw in adult readers. Anapol says they can try it. However, he points out that Parnassus’s largest market is Germany, and a lot of money could be lost if their reputation is too anti-German. To Sammy’s surprise, Joe says he will stop introducing Nazis into the scripts. He is tired of fighting. He wants to take a moment to work on something really great. Sammy wonders whether they could add Japanese villains instead.
Sammy and Joe are forced by the ban on war-related matters to take a new approach to their comics, which includes making greater use of their other characters. Joe’s art is able to develop, and their circulation figures slowly increase in line with the general increased national interest in comics. As a result, Joe and Sammy become wealthy.
Bacon introduces Sammy to Frank Singe, head of production at Parnassus. Sammy has three scenarios to show him, but Singe seems uninterested and says he has other scriptwriters lined up. Sammy recognizes that Bacon really wants Sammy to get a job in California so that Bacon won’t be alone there.
Sammy reluctantly recognizes that he is in love with Bacon. They spend almost all their time together and have kissed some more, but Sammy isn’t sure whether he or Bacon are homosexual.
Bacon hails a cab. He wants to take Sammy to the World’s Fair in Queens. The taxi driver says it has mostly been taken down, but he is willing to drive them out to whatever is left.
The site is fenced off, but Bacon helps Sammy up and over the fence. The Trylon is covered in scaffolding, about to be torn down. Bacon wants to sneak in, to see what’s left inside. The Perisphere, which Sammy remembers seeing years earlier, is still there. The two men push their way right into the core of the building. They lie down on the ground in the dark, looking at what remains of the displays, “loving each other.”
In November, Joe receives a letter from Thomas. He is making slow progress and is near Portugal.
The next day, Rosa comes straight to the Empire offices from the TRA to tell Joe that, according to Mr. Hoffman, there is a problem with the children’s visas, and most of them will be revoked. She is crying, wishing there is something they could do. Joe optimistically suggests calling Eleanor Roosevelt, and Rosa remembers that her father has made her acquaintance.
Harkoo calls the White House that afternoon and is told that Eleanor is indeed in New York City. He sets an appointment with her to explain the situation, and she arranges for the Ark of Miriam to leave Lisbon for the USA.
Joe tells Rosa that he has signed the lease on a new apartment. Sammy is moving to LA for three months to write a movie, and he wants to have an apartment close to good schools for Thomas. Rosa presents Joe with a painting of him, the third she has done and the last painting she ever makes. In return, Joe gives her a key to the apartment, saying that it is “the key to my heart.” She will not move in, for propriety’s sake, but says she will be there as much as she can.
In the future, boys at whose bar mitzvahs Joe performed will remember completely disparate things about him. He is never the same twice.
In December 1941, Joe performs at the Hotel Trevi, at a Mexican-themed party. Joe is unaffected by their criticism that he is incorrectly dressed; he tells everyone that his brother is coming and that he is about to propose.
While Joe is performing, Rosa goes to the new apartment and begins painting a mural on the wall of what will be Thomas’s room. She has realized that she is pregnant. The mural features legendary and heroic American figures. When she leaves, she is pleased with her work until she sees a notice in the paper: a ship filled with Jewish refugee children is missing and believed lost.
She takes a cab straight to the Trevi only to be told that Joe left hours ago. Rosa is surprised by this, wondering why he did not return to the apartment. A little boy, Stanley, tells her that Joe knows the bad news: it had been announced at the party. He also says he induced Joe to “do an escape,” but when Joe eventually agreed, he was dropped into a fountain and did not manage to get himself back out. He had to be rescued, and he immediately ran away, ashamed and still wet.
Rosa calls Mrs. Klayman to tell her what has happened. She says she is worried Joe may try to kill himself.
Ruth Ebling, Mr. Love’s housekeeper, is watching from the window as Sammy arrives in a car with Mr. Love. She is particularly hostile towards Jews at the moment, because she is the sister of the now-imprisoned Carl Ebling. She feels that her brother, whom she believes to suffer from mental illness, was treated too harshly.
Ruth feels that Sammy looks out of place among the tall, well-built men. Sammy feels much the same, and he says so to Bacon as he puts his suitcase down. He has come to accept that he is gay. He and Bacon have become part of the circle of John Pye, a notorious gay man. Tomorrow, Sammy and Bacon will leave for the West Coast together.
Unfortunately for the gathered men, Ruth Ebling finds a comic strip of Sammy’s, identifies the connection between Sammy and her brother’s arrest, and calls the police to tell them about the homosexual activity in the house. A group of policemen arrive, and Bacon and the others try to fight them. One officer suggests to Sammy that he will let him go in return for sexual favors. Sammy obliges and is deemed a “witness” rather than a suspect. At this juncture, Ethel telephones Sammy with the news that Thomas Kavalier is dead, and Sammy returns to New York.
Joe stumbles out from the Trevi into the night, very drunk. He takes the train to Coney Island, is woken by a policeman there, and then returns to Ethel’s apartment. Joe takes a shower and weeps, and Ethel alerts Rosa to the fact that Joe is here. Rosa arrives, and hugs Joe.
Joe and Rosa go to bed at Rosa’s house. When Rosa wakes, it is two in the afternoon, and Joe is gone. He has left to join the navy; Rosa’s father explains that Pearl Harbor has been attacked and that the US has entered the war.
Sammy arrives. He looks dishevelled. Bacon has left for Hollywood without Sammy. Sammy feels it is not “worth the danger” to be in a relationship with a man.
Rosa tells Sammy she thinks she needs to get an abortion, although she hasn’t told Joe about the baby.