Rules of Civility: Chapters 9 Through 17

February 17, 2012 | By | Comments (2)

Hi there, Bookies! I’m back to explore the next nine chapters of Amor Towles’s Rules of Civility…let’s hop in our Bentley and take on the town, shall we?

When we last left our heroine, Katey Kontent, she was settling into a life without her glamorous friends Tinker and Eve. Yet at the start of Chapter 9, Eve pops up to fill Katey in on the tony details of her new lifestyle, the jaunts to Europe, home-remodeling plans, expensive clothes, and dinners at the exclusive Rainbow Room. But despite the luxuries bestowed upon Eve by Tinker, Katey senses that her friend is bored and disengaged. And even though she doesn’t state it, I sensed the impressions left on Katey by Eve ignited more than a twinge of jealousy. Yet, despite increasing distance, both emotional and physical, the friendship remains intact. In my last post, many of your comments regarding Eve and Katey’s friendship mused about the differences between loyalty and civility in friendships. As the distance widens between Eve and Katey, what part do you think civility and obligation plays in their friendship?

As Katey’s opportunities for success in New York social circles as well as in her career increase, she seems to ruminate less and less upon her fond memories of Eve and Tinker and focus more on her own self-improvement. She is more apt to take chances without any idea of what these risks will bring; fortunately for Katey, her impulses prove to be fruitful, though I feel she relies too much upon luck to pull her through life. In any case, I admired Katey for making her life happen, rather than sitting back and succumbing to circumstance. Though in her narrative she doesn’t directly say so, Katey is taking this time to try on a number of different versions of herself, to accommodate whichever situation she happens to find herself in. We discussed in the first post the crucial purpose of the preface to establish that Katey’s narrative recalls 1938 from some years later, instead of telling her story as it happens. Her recollection of her younger self from her perch in her 50s greatly affects how we are coming to know Katey; in a more present tense, the storytelling might paint a picture of a completely different woman. Yet I was surprised the retelling of this time of trying on new personas wasn’t more carefully scrutinized. Do you think Katey is self-aware and calculating her future or just plain lucky and adept at fitting in when she needs to?

Chapter 13 presents Katey with a new distraction in the form of Wallace Wolcott, a mild-mannered man from the upper echelons of society with whom Katey is acquainted through Tinker and Eve. Wallace and Katey begin what I really can only call a sweet companionship—any romantic goings-on never do become solidified. But despite the respect and care Katey feels for Wallace, as well as the comfort he provides, something told me that a more serious relationship did not develop between the two because of lingering feelings Katey has for Tinker. Though Tinker and Eve are far away, exploring the likes of London and Paris, and not quite in touch with Katey, she is constantly reminded of the pair by the young socialites she bumps into here and there—the ultimate encounter revealing that Tinker proposed marriage to Eve. I found it interesting that Katey did not quite engage in her relationship with Wallace—one that had potential to be something real—yet can still be sent reeling by each new step in the progress of Tinker and Eve’s life without her. What do you think the feelings Katey harbors for Tinker are based upon? Why do you think she shuns the prospect of loving and being loved by Wallace yet holds on to what is essentially her non-relationship with Tinker? And should she give up on Tinker?

For all of Katey’s imaginings about Eve and Tinker’s romance, a reckless act on Eve’s part leads to her letting Katey know that the life she’s established with Tinker is anything but fulfilling. We learn that while in Europe, Eve discovered she was pregnant, and Tinker’s response was an offer of marriage. His elaborate proposal smacks of romance, but considering the trajectory of their relationship, his intent to wed Eve points out that, above all, Tinker is ruled by obligation. How much of what Tinker does comes from his heart, do you think, and how much is based upon the feelings of civility instilled in him?

At the end of Chapter 17, everything changes: Eve has disappeared and Tinker wants Katey to visit him in the Adirondacks. In just a few paragraphs I could feel all of those old feelings for Tinker buried in Katey make their way to the surface. A provocative place to pause our adventure. I can’t wait to find out what’s next, and I hope you’re excited too. Keep those great comments coming!

Until next time.