Student Question

What is the climax of On Beauty?

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The climax of this novel comes when Zora and Jerome discover the sexual relationship between their father, Howard, and Victoria Kipps, who is both a woman whom Jerome was formerly interested in and the daughter of their father's enemy. What makes this such a climax to the novel is that Howard and Kiki's marriage has been going through difficulties since her discovery about his last extra-marital relationship. Clearly, the news that Howard has had an affair with a woman who is younger than his own daughter indicates that his hopes of returning to marital bliss with Kiki, his wife, are all but spent. Zora interprets this act as being one of complete betrayal, not just to her mother, but also to herself and to Jerome:

"She's my age. No--she's younger than me. You're fifty-seven years old, Dad," said Zora and laughed miserably.

Howard, through the discovery of this sexual indiscretion, has effectively destroyed any hopes of getting back together with his wife and also seriously damaged his relationship with his children. In terms of the overall plot of the novel, this sudden revelation clearly points towards the ending of the story and Howard's estrangement from those whom he loves because of his infidelity.

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