Chapter 21 Summary

Richard Gordon comes home from the Bradleys’ and finds his wife, Helen, sitting on the couch in the dark with John MacWalsey. She accuses Richard of having lipstick on his shirt and reeking of Mrs. Bradley’s cologne. Richard asks his wife if she kissed MacWalsey, and she says she did not. He then asks if he kissed her, to which she replies that he did and she liked it. Richard calls his wife a bitch, and she tells him that she will leave him if he calls her that, so he calls her a bitch again and again. She announces that their marriage is over, that she has tried to be a good wife but he is too conceited and selfish. He provokes her with the fact that she could not have any children. She claims that she was furious at MacWalsey for kissing her.

Richard asks her what she plans to do. She says she does not know, but she may marry MacWalsey. When she tells Richard that MacWalsey asked her to marry him, he reminds her that she is married to him. She points that they were never married in a church. They had married for love, but it proved to be worthless. Richard continues to call her names. She taunts him for his lack of success as a writer, saying he has poured himself into politics that he changes on a whim. When Helen says that she wants to start over, he mocks her, asking if she really wants to start over with a drunk. Helen says that he drinks, but so did her father. He takes care of her and considers her feelings, unlike Richard. Richard asks Helen if she loves him anymore, and she replies that she hates the word. Richard slaps her across the face, and Helen begins to cry in rage.

Richard thinks back to his visit with Helene Bradley that afternoon. They were making love on the sofa when a bearded man came to the doorway. Helene begged him not to stop and not to mind the bearded man. She explained that it was only Tommy, her husband, who knows all about her infidelities and does not mind. When he tried to leave, Helene slapped him across the face and told him to leave.

Helen Gordon says she is sorry it happened, but their marriage is truly over. Richard agrees and apologizes for slapping her. Helen says that it was just as good a way to say good-bye as any. She offers to be the one to leave, and Richard tells her to wait until morning.