|A Reader's Guide
to William Gaddis's The Recognitions
Pages 446-86; Thursday or Friday, 22 or 23 December 1949.
On what could be the next day or perhaps the same day that Wyatt visits his father (the time scheme becomes muddled at this point - see my "Chronological Difficulties in the Novels of William Gaddis"), Otto finds Esme having breakfast at a drugstore with a pornographer whose departure coincides with the arrival of Stanley and Max. After paying for all five breakfasts, Otto takes Esme out for a walk toward Washington Square and, failing to elicit any kind of commitment from her, proposes marriage. Esme doesn't take his proposal seriously and leaves him. Otto soon runs into Max and Stanley again, as well as Anselm, who is baby-sitting Don Bildow's daughter.
Esme has gone to Wyatt's Horatio Street lodgings, where he appears to be sleeping (though he may not, in fact, be there). Wandering around his room, talking to herself, kicking the griffin's egg Wyatt brought back, she finally dons Camilla's earrings, makes herself up garishly with Wyatt's paint, and writes him a long letter. Assuming she does not exist for him except as a painting, she concludes her letter: "The only way to circumvent painting is by absolute death" (473) and goes home to attempt suicide.
The next day, Otto leaves a bar to go to the Viareggio, where he learns of Esme's attempted suicide. Vainly assuming he drove her to it, he rushes to her place to forgive and console her and finds Chaby (who rescued her) there as well. Esme has lapsed back into schizophrenia and thereafter refers to herself in the third person. Otto learns she has been modeling for Wyatt, and after reaffirming his need for her (and his loathing for Chaby), he goes off to keep the rendezvous with his father.
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