Kees Popinga (poh-peen-GAH), a forty-year-old man who is proud of his family, possessions, and responsible position as managing clerk for Julius De Coster and Son, Ship Chandlers. He is a model citizen of Groningen, Holland. He changes radically, however, into the man referred to in Paris newspapers as the “Madman from the Zuider Zee” and the “Thug from Amsterdam” as a result of an unexpected meeting with his employer. De Coster tells Kees that he no longer has a job, that the firm is bankrupt, and that he himself is leaving town. These events, along with a vague longing for a change, prompt Kees to give up his respectable way of life. He finds that he enjoys reading about himself as a criminal. When police arrest unruly customers at a café where Kees waits for Jeanne, he hides in the lavatory. From that time on, he identifies himself with the criminal world. Having rejected the values that previously had ordered his life, Kees believes that he is free to do whatever he wants with impunity. As a result of his exploits, Kees is convinced that he is a superior person, and he wants others to recognize this. Newspaper articles continue to refer to him as a maniac. One of his letters directing the police to the car thieves’ base of operation results in the thieves agreeing to help the police find him. Kees realizes that he must severely restrict his behavior, the very thing he considers abhorrent, to...
(The entire section is 466 words.)