Chapter 8 Summary

Leonard’s sexual initiation causes an abrupt change in his hygienic habits. Normally a very clean, orderly man, Leonard goes a full work week without bathing. Instead of going home, he goes to Maria’s flat and has no toiletries or change of clothes. His stubble begins to grow in (which Glass notices in passing), and he smells of sex, food, sweat, and other unidentifiable odors. Only at the end of the work week does Leonard return home to clean up and pack an overnight bag to take with him back to Maria’s apartment.

Maria is incredibly patient with Leonard as he learns how to make love to a woman. He is fascinated by her body and spends hours under the covers in her room exploring every part of it, including her feet and stomach. Maria teaches him how to be a sensitive lover and bring the woman to orgasm first, which Leonard readily agrees to. Since Maria’s apartment is so cold, they spend most of their time in her room and in her bed, even taking their meals there.

As their affair continues, Leonard finds himself occupied by curious thoughts while having sex with Maria. He finds himself increasingly focused on her German-ness and the knowledge that he has been raised to view Germans as the enemy. He begins to fantasize about their lovemaking as a kind of conquering; he finds himself excited by the idea of conquering her. He occasionally bites or spanks her, and periodically restrains her hands. He is initially disturbed by these thoughts and impulses, but realizes that Maria cannot see into his mind. She does not seem to notice the change in his behavior.

As these thoughts consume Leonard, he finds fantasizing about them insufficient. He wants to act them out and feels certain that Maria will find them arousing. He is hesitant to bring them up in conversation and feels that asking her permission would ruin the fantasy. One night, after a trip to the movies, Leonard decides to enact the fantasy, assuming Maria will be swept away by it without his having to explain. When she tiredly tries to go to bed, he begins ordering her to undress. She resists, and he begins pulling her clothes off. The struggle escalates and the two wind up on the floor wrestling. Maria is haunted by a memory from the war in which a Russian soldier forced himself on a woman who had been shot in the legs; a superior officer apprehended him, took him outside, and shot him in the back of the head. Only when Maria begins crying does Leonard stop his advances. She asks him to leave and he reluctantly goes, feeling she misunderstood what he thought was playful. When he comes to see her the next day with flowers, a neighbor tells him she has moved back with her parents.