Chapter 36 Summary
Ralph walks along the streets of the city in a daze. He is having difficulty thinking, but his sensual perceptions seem to have intensified. He notices the dirt and sweat of the city. He feels the intense summer heat more so than he ever has before. He notices and feels every minute detail, but he sees them as if from a great distance. He is there and not there at the same time.
When he gets off the subway, he walks toward his home. Then he is distracted by a thought of his office; maybe he should go there. He pulls out his watch to check the time, but then he cannot remember why he had to know what hour it is. He stands on the corner, wondering which way to turn. Should he go home or go to work? Maybe, instead, he should go to his club for lunch.
Ralph ends up at his home. The house is empty except for an old maid. Ralph’s mother has gone to Maine with Ralph’s grandfather. When Ralph goes to his room, he feels as awkward as a stranger. Nothing in the room feels familiar. When finally he remembers all the items, recalling their individual histories, he wishes he were not there. He has an intense desire to be somewhere that he does not know. He then questions how he can go on living.
The room is hot, so Ralph walks over and opens the windows. The heat reminds him of the summer he and Undine were married and the time they spent in Italy for their honeymoon. Then all his memories of Undine rush back. Ralph ponders them in light of the information he has just learned from Moffatt. Undine lied to him. She was completely deceptive, right from the beginning. There had not been one moment in their relationship that had any truth in it.
Despite this revelation, the more pleasant memories of Undine also return. Ralph remembers the scent of her perfume, the beauty of her youth. These things return as if to mock him. He drops into a chair and lowers his head to his hands. When the maid comes to his room, she is worried that Ralph is not feeling well. He sends the maid away and locks the door in fear that she will return. He desperately wants to be left alone.
Then Ralph thinks about all the money he has lost. He cannot imagine how he will ever repay it. He cannot even remember why he wanted the money in the first place. All he can think about is the misery he is experiencing.
He hears the maid’s footsteps on the stairs. He does not want to be disturbed. He rushes to a drawer and pulls out his gun. He places his fingers on his skull, as if to mark the place. Then he sets the muzzle of the gun to his head and pulls the trigger.