Tom is practicing with Bernard in the park one afternoon. Herbert comes to the practice. He is angry that Bernard has been skipping his violin lessons. Tom tells Bernard they can end practice early. Herbert tells Bernard that football practice is over for the rest of his life. Herbert speaks haughtily to Tom. He tells Tom that football is only a passing interest for Bernard and that he is sending him to music camp for the rest of the summer. Tom tells Bernard that if he sends Bernard to camp, he will never become the musician Herbert wants him to be.
When Tom returns to Savannah’s apartment, Bernard is calling on the phone. Tom asks if he can take Bernard to the station the next day when he leaves for camp. Bernard happily accepts.
On the way to the station the next day, Tom tells Bernard that he has written the football coach at his school and recommended him for the junior football team. Bernard asks Tom why he does not coach anymore. Tom tells him he had a nervous breakdown when his brother died. Bernard says that he will write a letter on Tom’s behalf. Tom tells him not to worry about the letter, but asks if he can hear Bernard play the violin. Tom is surprised by how good Bernard is. Tom gives Bernard a new football. When Tom returns to Savannah’s apartment, he receives a call from Herbert inviting him to dinner at his apartment the next Saturday after his concert.
Tom attends Herbert’s concert the next Saturday. Dinner afterwards is a disaster. Madison, the woman with whom Susan believes Herbert is having an affair is also there. Herbert is pompous and cruel. At the dinner table he insults Tom repeatedly. Talk at the dinner table escalates to an argument as Herbert talks about how he hates the south and people that live there. Susan finally loses her cool when Monique tries to defend her from Herbert. Susan yells at Monique. Susan then tells Monique that she knows she is having an affair with Herbert, and asks her to remove her hand from Herbert’s penis—as Susan knows that Monique is fondling him at the table. Monique runs away. Everyone is stunned. Susan demands that Herbert apologize to Tom. Herbert refuses. Tom grabs Herbert’s violin and hangs it over the balcony. Tom tells Herbert that he will drop his violin if Herbert does not apologize to Susan. Herbert is outraged. Finally, Herbert apologizes to Susan.
Tom leaves the apartment. Susan follows him outside. She asks if he has every made love to a psychiatrist; he says no and asks if she has ever made love to a football coach. Susan says that she has not, but hopes to have a different answer in the morning. Susan and Tom go to Savannah’s apartment. They spend the whole night and next morning making love.
The next morning, Lila calls and says she is on her way over to Savannah’s apartment. She is in the city and wants to see Tom. Tom tells her it is not convenient and the apartment is a mess. Lila says she does not care and that she will be over in 30 minutes. In the meantime, Eddie comes over and meets Susan. At first, he thinks she is Sallie. He tells Tom, jokingly, that he hates cheap heterosexuality.
By the time Lila arrives Tom has managed to clean up a bit and Susan has left. Lila threatens to tell Susan that the rape story is a lie. She tells Tom that she was never raped at all, and that he cannot prove it. He tells her that he was convinced she was raped when she came out of her room naked. Lila breaks down in tears and tells him how horrible it was.
Lila asks to see Savannah and Tom tells her she does not want to see any of them. Lila says she wants her children to love her. Tom says he always loved her; he was only angry with her. Lila asks if they can be friends again. Tom says yes, and that he probably needs it more than she does. Lila asks if she will meet him and her husband for dinner Tom agrees. That evening Tom dines with his mother and his stepfather, Reese Newbury.
Herbert Woodruff is a stock character. He is a typical villain character. He is cruel, pompous, and nasty. He also loses to the good guy (Tom). We do not see a gentle or even vaguely decent side of Herbert in this novel. The irony of the dinner party is that these people are supposed to be the cultured, educated sector of the American population—yet, they are dysfunctional and petty. Tom is the only one who is able to control the situation.
The sexual development between Tom and Susan is the climatic moment of Tom’s triumph over the evil Herbert. For a novel that appears to espouse feminist virtues, the subtext of this sexual victory is troublesome. One must wonder if Susan is driven into Tom’s arms because she loves him (or simply desires him) – or is it revenge against her husband?
The reader learns that Tom’s stepfather is Reese Newbury, the very rich and very shallow character from Tom’s youth. This marriage choice seems to be Lila’s ultimate revenge against her children (or at least Tom), with whom Tom claims she has been at war. Lila and Tom reach a truce when they agree to be friends. When Tom agrees to have dinner with Lila and Reese it appears that he genuinely has decided to forgive Lila.