Arthur Winner, Jr., a middle-class, middle-aged, dispassionate man, has tried to live his life in the light of reason, patterned after his father—“the nearly unique individual; the Man, if not perfectly, at least predominantly, of Reason.” Ruled by a strong sense of duty and responsibility, he serves his community, law practice, church, and family. In the space of an afternoon, he deals with the problems of his distressed secretary, Helen, her brother Ralph’s rape case and bail jumping, court opinion imputing ineptness by his law partner Noah Tuttle, a cherished tree struck by lightning, a lesbian Catholic proselytizer, the discovery that his love affair with his partner Julius Penrose’s wife is no secret, and a disgruntled choir director. Winner’s brother-in-law Fred Dealey remarks: “You’re really a kind of universal fall guy, Arthur! They all come to you! Philosophy and religion assure me that fall guy’ is the righteous man’s other name.” Winner is proud of his ability to order other people’s lives and problems, and his sense of security and complacency in his power in his personal life is an extension of his professional life. He is a product of his profession. Only through deep contemplation of his failure as a father with his son Warren and his weakness in participating in a passionate affair does his sense of complacency become shaken. He is further humbled by his inability to prevent Helen Detweiler’s suicide and his realization of Noah Tuttle’s unethical professional activities. The Arthur Winner at the end of the novel is no longer secure in his power to rule by reason.
Noah Tuttle has reached the age of senility, and his brilliant law career is coming to a sad end with his secretary and partners covering for his lapses of memory—at least that is what Arthur Winner thinks until he discovers the misappropriation of funds that was prompted by Tuttle’s magnanimous concern for the...
(The entire section is 790 words.)