The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

by Michael Chabon

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Part V, Chapters 1–7

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Last Updated on March 16, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 870

Chapter One 

Joe is stationed with twenty-one other men at Kelvinator Station. There are eighteen dogs there, too. The men play a complex game in which the loser must sleep with the dogs. Joe loses most often and consequently grows fond of one of the dogs, Oyster.

One night he wakes and notices that there is a change in Oyster’s breathing. When he becomes more alert, he realizes that the dog-tunnel is filled with “fog” and all the other dogs are dead. He picks up Oyster and takes him back to the men’s quarters, but the dog is already dying. The men in the quarters are all dead too. In desperation, Joe breaks out through the roof-door into the snow, and passes out in the ice. As he does so, he has a vision of Kornblum, who says, “Escapistry.”

Chapter Two 

Joe wakes in a sleeping bag on the floor of the station’s hangar. Kelvinator is officially known as Naval Station SD-A2(R). The senior pilot, John Shannenhouse, is sitting with Joe. Shannenhouse has been trying to radio for help, but the radio is not working. He explains that the stove was leaking carbon monoxide, which poisoned everyone but the two men and Oyster. Joe and Shannenhouse have plenty of food to last them until they are rescued, but they feel that the place has “evil intent.”

Chapter Three 

John Shannenhouse is very attached to his Curtiss-Wright Condor seaplane. As winter wears on, he decides to replace all its parts, beginning with the engines. He even sleeps in the plane.

Radio service is finally restored, so Command is aware of the disaster, but there is no hope of rescue until September. Joe listens to every frequency he can seek out on the radio, trying to follow the war. There is little about the Jews in Czechoslovakia, and he is disappointed to have been sent to the South Pole instead of the European front, where the fight against Germany is unfolding.

However, one evening he hears about the Czech Protectorate, a “preserve” for Jews, and on the program he hears his grandfather's voice, singing for the prison town. He then hears a German transmission from very close by and realizes there must be Germans at the South Pole too. Shannenhouse tells Joe to tell Command about it. Instead, Joe begins monitoring all the transmissions himself and is soon able to place the Germans at the thirtieth meridian. The transmitter is a geologist, and Joe notes down all the details, figuring he will reveal all the details to command at once. One night he intercepts information about a U-boat and is able to supply this intelligence to Command so that the boat can be sunk.

Eventually spring comes. Joe wants to take the plane out. When he tells Shannenhouse this, he learns that Shanennhouse has replaced the fuselage fabric with the skins of the deceased dogs.

Chapter Four 

Spring rejuvenates both Shannenhouse and Joe. They begin sleeping in the Mess Hall together and considering what to do. Oyster is shot to finish the fuselage, which upsets Joe.

Joe types up a statement to say that he and Shannenhouse have identified a German military base and that they are going to raid it.

Joe has a stack of unopened letters from Rosa, and he finally begins opening and reading them. Rosa says she wishes Joe hadn’t run away but understands that he may blame her for Thomas’s death. In the fifth letter, Rosa says she has married Sammy, and then that she has given birth; Joe figures that the baby must be his. He learns that Bacon has been shot down in a raid.

Joe begins to write to Rosa but does not know what to say. He believes the child will be better off without him, even if he survives.

Chapter Five 

Shannenhouse and Joe board the seaplane and set off for their mission. Joe does not tell Shannenhouse that he has wired a message to the Geologist: “WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU.” Three days later, in a tent pitched in the mountains, Shannenhouse’s appendix bursts.

Chapter Six 

Joe manages to land the plane at the German station, which he calls Jotunheim. Shannenhouse has died, and Joe is alone. Despite his burst appendix, Shannenhouse was able to help Joe navigate and pilot the plane towards the German station before dying mid-flight. 

Joe addresses the Geologist in German, saying he is happy to be here, but when Joe pulls out his pistol, the German misinterprets his intentions and, in the struggle that ensues, the German is accidentally shot. Joe tries to drag him back to the station and save his life, but the man dies on the way, and Joe feels inexplicably devastated by this.

Chapter Seven 

Joe is found some weeks later by the navy icebreaker William Dyer, to which he radioed his position. He has been living in a hut, eating the rations of a thirty-year-old German exploration party. He is taken to Guantanamo Bay while his story is investigated and then given the Distinguished Service Cross. By this time, it is shortly before VE Day, 1945.

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Part IV, Chapters 9–17


Part VI, Chapters 1–6