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Chapter 5 Summary

In Chapter 5, Frank describes his feelings about women. He has always found it relatively easy to get women’s attention because they enjoy teasing him about his name. In childhood, his cleverness earned him the nickname Smart. He has learned that women enjoy making jokes about a poor man named Smart Money.

Frank has always loved the fragility he senses inside women. To him, a woman’s vulnerability is like “a bird’s breastbone.” He knows he could break most women “with a forefinger,” but he would never want to. When he was with Lily, he felt that her fragility climbed inside his chest and became part of him, too.

Next, Frank describes how he and Lily met. It was a few months after he returned from the Korean War. He had been drinking and gambling most of the time. He had no fixed home and no direction in his life. He was dirty and lost. One day, while walking through the city, he saw a little girl bleeding and vomiting. This made him sad, and he spent days feeling out of sorts. Then he saw his reflection and found himself so “pitiful-looking” that he was ashamed. He decided to clean himself up and change his life so that he could make himself and his fellow veterans proud. Frank took his clothes to a dry cleaner’s, and that was where he met Lily. 

Lily and Frank started a relationship very quickly, and she helped him regain a measure of control over his life. Around her, his war flashbacks did not haunt him so badly. She was the most important thing in his life, aside from his sister and his memories. He thinks he would still be with Lily if he had not received the letter saying Cee needed help.

Frank says that the author of his story is “dead wrong” if she thinks all he wanted from Lily was sex and a place to live. He says:

Something about her floored me, made me want to be good enough for her. Is that too hard for you to understand?

Frank’s tone in this passage suggests that he does not expect the author of his story to believe him.

Continuing in this vein, Frank complains that the author is messing up his story. According to him, she was incorrect back in Chapter 2 when she said he thought a man would be justified in beating his wife. “I think you don’t know much about love,” he says, “Or me.”