Mr. Vertigo Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 36 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Mr. Vertigo.
This section contains 751 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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Mr. Vertigo Summary & Study Guide Description

Mr. Vertigo Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Mr. Vertigo by .

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Auster, Paul. Mr. Vertigo. Penguin Books, 1995.

The novel opens in St. Louis, Missouri in the mid-1920s. Walt Rawley is a nine-year-old orphan being raised by his unloving aunt and uncle. One day, a mysterious man named Master Yehudi tells Walt that he can teach him how to fly and that they can make a lot of money together. Walt goes with Yehudi to Yehudi’s farm in Cibola, Kansas. Also living with them are an old Native American woman named Mother Sioux and Master Yehudi’s adopted son, an African-American boy named Aesop. Yehudi forces Walt to do work around the farm, and Walt attempts several times to run away, but he eventually grows accustomed to life on the farm. He also meets Marion Witherspoon, a wealthy local woman who has invested money in Walt’s training. Yehudi appears to be in love with Marion.

Eventually, the next stage of Walt’s training begins, and it involves a series of strange and harrowing ordeals. For example, Walt is buried alive for 24 hours with nothing but a straw through which to breathe. Also, Yehudi cuts off the top section of Walt’s left pinky finger. Eventually, Walt manages to levitate a few inches off the floor, but he has far greater trouble learning how to fly and not simply hover. Eventually, he discovers the technique of imbuing his levitation with forward momentum, and he eventually becomes proficient at flying. Yehudi begins planning shows to make money off of Walt’s ability. However, the Ku Klux Klan soon arrives at their home and kills Aesop and Mother Sioux.

Walt and Yehudi stay at Marion’s house for two months while they grieve, and then they leave to arrange Walt’s first public performance. Walt performs at a county fair wearing an angel costume that Yehudi has made for him. The crowd throws things at them and they have to leave. Walt next performs wearing a simple pair of overalls, and the crowd loves the performance. They begin to travel to different parts of the country, and the show is a big success. Eventually, Walt’s Uncle Slim learns about the show and tracks down Walt and Yehudi. He demands 25% of their revenue, and when Yehudi declines, Slim kidnaps Walt. He holds Walt for ransom for over a month before Walt is able to escape. When he reunites with Yehudi, Yehudi says that Marion is engaged to be married to a wealthy man who had agreed to pay Walt’s ransom in exchange for Marion’s hand in marriage.

Yehudi begins to organize shows for Walt in indoor theaters. The shows are very successful, but one day, after Walt has gone through puberty, Walt begins to suffer from post-flight headaches. The headaches increase in severity, and Yehudi recognizes it as a condition that could possibly be cured if Walt is castrated. Walt decides not to be castrated, and thus Walt’s career as a flying performer ends. Yehudi and Walt decide to drive to Hollywood to begin an acting career for Walt, but they are ambushed by Uncle Slim. Slim causes their car to crash, and he steals all of their savings. Yehudi, realizing that he will inevitably die from his wounds, asks Walt to shoot him in the head, but when Walt cannot do it, Yehudi does it himself.

Walt spends the next three years tracking down Slim, and when he does, he kills him. He then enters the employ of Bingo Walsh, the Chicago gangster for whom Slim had worked at the end of his life. Walt proves to be a reliable employee, and he and Walsh eventually open a club together. Walt becomes obsessed with a baseball player named Dizzy Dean, who was once great but whose performance suffers because of an injury. Dean refuses to retire, and due to Walt’s unresolved grief regarding Yehudi’s death, this drives Walt temporarily insane. Walt tries to kill Dean, and he is arrested. Instead of jail time, he agrees to enlist in the army. He serves in World War Two and then returns to the United States. He marries a woman named Molly Fitzsimmons, and they are happy together, but Molly is eventually killed by cancer. Walt then goes back to Kansas and moves in with Marion. He helps her with her business affairs, and he lives out the rest of his days there.

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