The Counterlife - Part 5 Christendom, pages 275-306 Summary & Analysis

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Part 5 Christendom, pages 275-306 Summary

Nathan finds a quiet corner away from those taking refreshments. Maria's sister, Sarah, approaches and begins a conversation by calling Nathan a "moral guinea pig." The conversation immediately escalates into Sarah saying insulting things about Nathan and everyone in her family. In her unceasing attack she insults Maria, calls her mother a "terrible anti-Semite," and lists several anti-Semitic English books in case Nathan doubts the anti-Semitic mood of the nation as a whole. Sarah concludes her attack by threatening Nathan with what will happen with relations between Maria and her mother if Nathan tries to prevent the new baby from being christened.

After leaving the service, Nathan does not immediately tell Maria of the conversation with Sarah. They are on the way to celebrate her birthday, and he does not want to ruin the mood. Nevertheless, he is troubled by Sarah's remarks, and he wonders if he has not been naïve in thinking he could marry a person from such a different background without difficulty.

At Maria's favorite restaurant, Nathan thinks that Maria, now five months pregnant, is beautiful. He gives Maria an expensive bracelet, and Maria comments on how wonderful their life is now. Nathan suppresses a desire to mention the christening issue and instead says that he does not know what Maria's mother thinks of their marriage. Maria tells Nathan all of the concerns her mother has raised, but none of them involve infant baptism.

Maria asks if something happened between Nathan and Sarah, but Nathan dodges the question by asking a question of his own. He continues asking short questions, and Maria gives long answers.

A white haired woman in the restaurant shouts that something is disgusting, and Nathan notices that the woman is staring directly at him. He wonders if the woman is disturbed by him being with Maria. The woman shouts that something smells awful and commands the waiter to open a window. Maria tells Nathan that the woman is obviously insane, and she urges him to ignore the woman. The woman continues to shout and complain about the smell, all the while staring at Nathan. Nathan can endure no more and approaches the woman and tells her that if she continues to insult him he will ask the management to have her removed from the restaurant.

Even after leaving the restaurant Maria is embarrassed by Nathan's behavior, but she finally concedes that all her life she has been embarrassed by her mother's anti-Semitism. At home Maria cries and tells Nathan that the woman's insults have sparked an awful memory. Once Maria brought a Jewish friend home, and her mother said the same thing about how Jews smell.

Part 5 Christendom, pages 275-306 Analysis

Sarah seems to have read all of Nathan's books, and many of her insults refer to actions of some of Nathan's fictional characters. At first the only thing that really shocks and troubles Nathan is how much Sarah seems to hate Maria. Later, the more he thinks about it, Nathan becomes increasingly troubled about the issue of christening.

Having just endured the unpleasant confrontation with Sarah, Nathan wonders if he is not being overly sensitive or even paranoid when the woman in the restaurant begins her racially insulting shouting. Maria at first denies there is anything beyond insanity happening with the woman, but she later confirms all that Nathan suspects.

The portion of the dinner conversation where Nathan asks short questions and Maria gives detailed answers mimics the format of the last section in Part 4.

This section contains 595 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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