Summary – Chapter Nineteen
This chapter shifts focus to David paying a visit to Mr Isaacs (who is Melanie’s father). Melanie’s younger sister, Desiree, answers the door and he thinks of her and Melanie as ‘fruit from the same tree’ and shivers lightly.
She tells him her father is not home yet and on taking her directions he visits Isaacs at the school where he works. He tells him he was passing through George and thought he would come and speak to him about what is on his heart (even though he is not sure what this is). He also says he would like to give his side of the story, and tells him that Melanie struck up a fire in him.
David also explains that he is keeping himself busy and Isaacs says, ‘“how the mighty are fallen”’. David thinks how there has been a fall, but questions the term ‘mighty’. He notices the similarity between Isaacs and Melanie and has an impulse to touch him, and strokes the back of his hand. Before David leaves, Isaacs invites him to dinner.
He comes to their home as requested and thinks Desiree as the beauty and notices Mrs Isaacs’ features remain stiff and she avoids his eye. During the meal, he talks of ‘country life’ and avoids telling them about the ‘complications’. Afterwards, when the two men are alone, David says (about himself) that he lacks ‘“the lyrical”’ and apologizes for ‘“the grief”’ he has caused him and his wife.
Isaacs says, ‘“at last you have apologized”’ and then asks what lessons can be learned and what does God want from him (David). David replies that he is not a believer, but in his own terms is being punished for what happened between him and Melanie and is in disgrace. Isaacs asks who he has really come to speak to and David goes to Desiree and her mother. He kneels down and touches his head on the floor ‘with careful ceremony’. He gets creakily to his feet and feels the current of desire for Desiree.
At 11 pm Isaacs rings David at his hotel room. He wishes David strength for the future and says he hopes he does not expect them to intervene at the university for him. David says this never crossed his mind and Isaacs explains it is not for them to interfere, as God has ordained his path.
Analysis – Chapter Nineteen
David’s encounter with Isaacs reflects the contradictions inherent in David’s characterization. On the one hand he speaks of his punishment for his ‘disgrace’, and one must assume the punishment is the rape of Lucy, and on the other he is attracted to Desiree in the midst of his abject apology to her and her mother. These conflicting aspects give a tragic-comic element to the novel as it is made realistic that he is both sorry for his sexual relationship with Melanie and simultaneously drawn to her even younger sister.