Two for the Seesaw by William Gibson

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Two for the Seesaw Summary

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Two for the Seesaw is about an eight-month romance between a thirty-three-year-old Nebraska lawyer who has left his wife and an aspiring New York dancer of twenty-nine. Jerry Ryan has come to New York to escape a stifling marriage poisoned by a father-in-law whose money and influence makes Jerry feel dependent and trapped. While Jerry’s wife awaits the divorce, Jerry wanders the New York streets and museums, going to films and living on the five hundred dollars he brought from Nebraska. Then he meets Gittel Mosca. Young, vivacious, but unsettled as she pursues her illusory hope of becoming a famous dancer, Gittel’s romantic entanglements have always been brief and superficial until she meets Jerry. Their romance, though tempestuous, is intense and appears potentially redeeming for both.

After becoming Gittel’s lover, Jerry takes a job in a law office and plans to reassume his legal career in New York, while Gittel rents a loft and gives dance lessons, with Jerry eventually moving in and sharing Gittel’s apartment. After Jerry’s divorce becomes final, however, his wife decides that she wants to attempt again to make the marriage work, and Jerry decides to leave Gittel and return to Nebraska. He will try to resurrect his marriage under terms that do not involve dependence on his father-in-law. Jerry and Gittel part as friends, thankful for what they have gained from each other.

The original title of Two for the Seesaw was After the Verb to Love , which Gibson used as a curtain line for the end of the play: “After the verb to love, to help is the sweetest in the tongue.” With Gibson, love is not the clichéd, windswept passion of Hollywood or the soap operas. The prosaic concern for another’s well-being and the desire to aid is, for Gibson, a more concrete and realistic way to define love. Gibson is also precise about what he means by “help.” Jerry received one kind of help from his father-in-law, but it was not love because the help created a feeling of dependence and inferiority. The help to which Jerry refers is what Jerry and Gittel helped each other learn through their relationship. Gittel helped Jerry regain his sense of independence and self-esteem, while Jerry helped Gittel gain the self-respect she needed to...

(The entire section is 570 words.)