The Counterlife - Part 3 Aloft, pages 141-163 Summary & Analysis

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Part 3 Aloft, pages 141-163 Summary

Nathan is on a plane. The man next to Nathan tries to begin a conversation, but Nathan is not interested. The man wants to discuss Nathan's impressions of Israel and relate his own. Nathan politely tries to halt the conversation, but the man persists, so Nathan searches for another seat. He finds an empty seat next to a young man reading a Jewish prayer book and eating candy bars. For reasons he is not certain he understands, Nathan finds the combination of activities odd.

Nathan takes the seat next to the young man and begins writing a letter to Henry. Nathan begins his lengthy letter by questioning where their failed meeting has left the two of them. He describes what he sees as Henry's current state and describes what his own must appear like to Henry. Nathan admits that he has tried diligently ever since their meeting to understand things from Henry's point of view. He says that he can understand that Henry finds some wisdom in Lippman's ideas but admits that he found Lippman interesting only in his showmanship. Nathan cautions Henry to be wary of what he sees as fanaticism, but also repeats that there is much he does not understand. He concludes by saying that he hopes his brother will be ever careful with his physical safety.

After finishing the letter to Henry, Nathan begins making notes of all he can remember of the previous day's telephone conversation with Carol. Carol is no longer patient. In fact, she is angry. Carol doubts whether Henry has really had some sort of spiritual awakening, and when Nathan tells her that Henry seems genuine, Carol says the cause must be madness. She explains that they were never practicing Jews, and that there was nothing in their life to explain Henry's sudden fervor. When Nathan mentions that Henry seems to think that the children will visit at Passover, Carol angrily says that she does not even know when Passover is and states that she will not even consider sending her children to be exposed to such madness.

After finishing the notes on the conversation with Carol, Nathan again notices the young man sitting beside him and thinks that he looks familiar, but Nathan cannot place him. Nathan turns his attention to a letter that had been delivered to his hotel. The letter is from Shuki. Shuki begins by saying that he worries about Nathan meeting Lippman. Specifically, he worries that Nathan will be entertained and think that Lippman will be the perfect character for a future novel. Shuki says that while in much the rest of the world, Jews may have the luxury of reading about Lippman-like characters and being entertained, in Israel the dangers are real. Shuki even recounts some recent history, and he reminds Nathan that for its defense, Israel relies heavily on aid from America. If Nathan writes of a Lippman-like character and amuses America, the American voters may underestimate the danger of the situation in Israel, and that could affect future willingness to offer aid. Shuki also says that Lippman has Arab counterparts who are every bit as fanatical, and when one contemplates the potential for violence, the situation is not nearly so humorous as Nathan may think.

Nathan begins to write a reply to Shuki, and from the first line it is apparent that Nathan is a little annoyed at Shuki's message. Nathan says that the United States Congress does not make decisions about appropriations of foreign aid based on humorous prose narrative. Before he can finish his letter to Shuki, Nathan is interrupted by the young man sitting next to him.

Part 3 Aloft, pages 141-163 Analysis

The letter to Henry is clearly an attempt to articulate what the brothers were unable to calmly discuss during their prior meeting. Nathan restates his entire case, but this time he manages to do so in a way that will probably be more palatable to Henry since it speaks more of Nathan's own confusion rather than being overtly critical of Henry. The most significant part of the letter comes at the end when Nathan says that his chief concern is the welfare of his brother. He cautions Henry against accepting what might be distortions of truth, but Nathan also acknowledges that he may not be knowledgeable in such areas. His last plea is that Henry guard his physical wellbeing.

Carol has long since stopped being a concerned wife. Her confusion over Henry's recent actions is every bit as much as Nathan's, but unlike Nathan, she is not longer willing to extend any benefit of doubt. She sees Henry's recent actions as either irresponsible abandonment of familial obligations or outright madness. She is steadfast in her decision not to send her children into an environment where they may be kidnapped and brainwashed.

Nathan's taking notes about the conversation with Carol underscores again that to him nothing is sacred. Even family troubles are fair game for material for his novels, and with this in mind, some of Shuki's concerns are more understandable.

Shuki worries that if Nathan uses his recent experiences in Israel to create a humorous story, those that offer aid to Israel may stop acknowledging the danger. It is unclear what Nathan is annoyed by in Shuki's letter. It may be that Nathan thinks Shuki has underestimated him, though it seems more likely that he is annoyed that Shuki takes the situation too seriously himself.

This section contains 917 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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