My journey, while not as dramatic as that of Coalhouse, is as tragic and is more pitiful. I am the stereotypical patriarch, assured in my role as successful breadwinner, father, and husband. I am occupied with the world outside of my family in the forms of my business and my social class (I believe Father has roots in the middle class, but has made himself a member of the upper class by attending an upper class institution of education and building a business). I compensate for what I feel is an unfair lack of recognition by “old money” for my acquisition of the American Dream by pushing to tie myself to ever greater feats of human accomplishment—hence, my desire to explore the world. I leave home with the expectation that I have an opportunity to make history by traveling to the North Pole, never anticipating that my greatest struggles would come from the domestic square.
Upon returning home, wearied and depressed by my failure to reach the North Pole and questioning my worth as a man, I am disgruntled to find that I am now host to three people of a distinctly lower class than my own—Sarah, Coalhouse, and their bastard son. In truth, (and considering the standard attitudes of the time) my behavior with regards to this new situation is admirable; though I am frustrated both with what I feel are overreaching actions taken by my wife in my absence and with my powerlessness in the situation, I maintain a cautiously open mind to the developing relationship and allow it to continue. I am even willing, after Coalhouse suffers the vandalism of his car, to contact my personal lawyer for Coalhouse’s use (and in the book, I offer to pay as well). When Sarah is killed I express the proper amount of sympathy for the death of someone who truly was a stranger to me—more than enough, even. All the same, when Coalhouse begins his rampage I quickly lose my tolerance for the man and rightly so; the murder of so many innocents, even for a cause as just as Coalhouse’s, is unacceptable. I feel that Coalhouse has turned a tragedy into a personal vendetta, and that the incident is splitting my home apart and leaving me alone when once I stood at its head. My brother-in-law and colleague has attacked me in his idealistic youth and my wife is growing ever more distant and insubordinate. I worry that my son too will leave me, so I bring him to a baseball game to earn his trust, only to discover that it seems the whole world has turned on its head and even the old standard of baseball has changed.
In desperation I transplant the family to Atlantic City. However, even there the world we left behind can reach out to us. When I am called to New York City to aid in the resolution of Coalhouse’s rampage I see an opportunity to win back what I once presumed: the trust and respect of my wife and the confidence in my worth. But even in this last attempt I fail; Coalhouse is betrayed and killed, despite my best intentions. My confidence is once again shattered, I don’t find that my wife respects me to any greater degree, and I realize that my son will grow up without me in a baser world. I set off adventuring again, with the same intentions to make a name for myself, and meet my demise at sea, paradoxically posthumously attaching myself to the event that would draw my country into the War to end all wars.