The Counterlife - Part 4 Gloustershire, pages 220-254 Summary & Analysis

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Part 4 Gloustershire, pages 220-254 Summary

After the funeral, Henry goes to Nathan's apartment building and contacts the landlord. She says that she cannot let him in Nathan's apartment, but some friendly words and forty dollars persuade her to let Henry inside. Henry begins examining Nathan's papers and discovers that Nathan took detailed notes on every conversation he ever had with Henry, including those detailing Henry's extramarital affairs. Henry thinks about how biographers often study the notes of dead novelists, and he begins tearing out pages that mention him.

Henry finds a manuscript titled Draft # 2. He notices that the first section is titled "Basel" and is entirely about him having a fictional heart problem, surgery, and death. As Henry reads further, he notes that Nathan's fictional English wife has the same name as Henry's real Swiss mistress. Henry wonders if Nathan picked the name for any particular reason or simply thought that was good as any name for a non-Jewish woman.

Henry wonders how he can take the notes and the portions of the manuscript that mention him. He decides to take only what he sees as compromising to his own family, and he searches for other copies of Draft # 2 and a copy of Draft # 1. Henry finds notes that indicate that Nathan wrote his own eulogy and supplied it to his editor to be used in the event of his death.

Henry takes the papers wrapped in one of Nathan's raincoats and stops at the landlord's apartment before leaving the building. He tells her that it is probably a good idea not to mention he has been there, and he gives her another forty dollars.

Away from the apartment, Henry considers throwing away the papers immediately, but he decides that it is too risky to discard them in Manhattan. He imagines them being found and serialized in the newspaper.

Henry thinks about how he has learned to stop trying to escape the boredom of his own marriage by obsessing about other women. He sees how patience has paid off in the long run, and how his family has a happy life. Henry has learned to appreciate his own family, and he equates the effort put into family to the effort he puts into his dental profession. Both have yielded rewards.

While driving, Henry wonders if he had been thorough enough in searching Nathan's papers. He considers stopping at his office to lock the papers in his safe so he can think of a way to discard them later. Henry stops to telephone his family so they will know he is on his way home. When Henry hears the concern in the voices of his family, he thinks all over again how Nathan distorts the love the family shares, and he is again angry. Henry finds a garbage container in a parking garage and he dumps the papers inside, and then Henry vomits.

After a break in the text, a new section begins with a different format. Questions are in italics, followed by answers. Soon the questions reveal that the person answering the questions is Maria, Nathan's Maria.

Maria had received a telephone call from Nathan's doctor informing her that the surgery had failed and that Nathan had died. She decides that there is no point in going to the funeral. She does not believe that she is personally responsible for Nathan's death. She believes that if Nathan had not had the surgery so he could marry her, he would have done it for someone else.

On the day of the funeral Maria takes her daughter for a walk in the park. That evening she goes to Nathan's apartment. She finds a manuscript titled Draft # 2, and the final section titled "Christendom" deeply affects the way Maria feels about Nathan. She believes it reduces the amount of love she has for him. She believes that reading the final section of the manuscript tells her more about Nathan than knowing the real man.

Maria has always despised women who destroyed their husbands' papers after their death, but after reading the final section to Nathan's manuscript, she understands why some women do this. She does not destroy any of Nathan's papers. She says she did not do it because all Nathan had was his writing. He had no children.

Maria acknowledges that publication of the book will likely damage her marriage. She believes that regardless of how her husband reacts, she will benefit. If he divorces her, that will be her escape. If he stays married to her, he will know that she too is unhappy in the present situation.

Maria does not believe that Nathan truly loved her. She believes that he found her entertaining because of his peculiar predicament. Maria says she has begun writing, and in her writing she speaks to the person posing the questions.

Part 4 Gloustershire, pages 220-254 Analysis

The manuscript titled Draft # 2 mirrors the novel The Counterlife in its section titles, characters, and content. Henry considers it an outright lie. In fact, he considers it Nathan's most irresponsible and offensive work yet. Henry wonders why Nathan persists in belittling him in writing, and Henry wonders if he is the only person Nathan has left to betray. Overall, Henry is disgusted with Nathan.

In this version of the story, Henry's renunciation of his mistress Maria marked the beginning of a happy life for Henry and his family, not the beginning of Henry's demise.

It is overtly symbolic that Henry vomits on Nathan's manuscript.

After the break in the text that marks Maria's question and answer session, it is never completely clear who is asking the questions, though most evidence points to Nathan. The person asking the questions knows things Maria does not, and some of Maria's answers contain second person references that make most sense if referring to Nathan.

While Henry destroyed part of Nathan's manuscript to protect his marriage, Maria left the manuscript intact, knowing that her marriage might be destroyed. She sees publication of the manuscript as her vehicle of escape from her present unpleasant life.

Maria says that reading the final section of the manuscript made her understand that novelist do not entirely invent new stories. Instead, they tell alternate versions of existing stories.

This final section of Part 4 might have introduced a new narrator to the novel: Maria.

This section contains 1,058 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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