Frank tells Jack Ordway about his plan to move to Europe. He has struggled for weeks with the disconnect between his home life and the feeling he has at work that he will never leave the job. Ordway asks him what he plans to do in Europe, and Frank becomes defensive, saying he needs this trip to find his calling. Frank’s annoyance turns into pity for Ordway and his depressing life, and he buys Ordway a brandy. Afterwards, they go to the bank to collect their paychecks and Jack remembers how he once mocked this scene to April, comparing Knox employees lining up to get paid to a litter of piglets sucking on their mother’s teats. Afterwards, taking a walk with Ordway and his other friends, Ed Small, Lathrop, and Sid Roscoe, Frank feels a sense of comradery mixed with happiness that he will soon put the world of Knox behind him.
Although Frank doesn’t admit it, he sees himself in Ordway. Both men drink too much, are creative but lazy, and have wives who feel let down by them. Now that Frank is diverging from their shared path of lazily passing their days doing busywork at Knox, he may wonder whether he is really meant for a life other than the one the two of them have shared. Frank wants to believe he is superior to the world of Knox, but it is one thing to feel superior while still feeling secure in that world, and another thing to abandon that world and try to find a new and fitting identity.
This sense of freedom disappears when Frank is called to Ted Bandy’s cubicle after lunch. Frank is surprised to find Bart Pollock, an important executive, there waiting to meet him. Although Frank has never met Pollock before, he has mocked him to April. Anxious in Pollock’s presence, Frank begins to think about how he will make fun of himself for feeling anxious when he recounts the afternoon to April later that night. Frank hardly listens to what Bandy is saying in introduction, watching Bart Pollock, who finally exclaims that he is very pleased with Speaking of Production Control, the piece Frank wrote for the branch manager in Toledo.
Frank’s newfound confidence in himself results from feeling in harmony with April. But as a result of this confidence, he actually applied himself to his work writing the pamphlet, doing a good job for the first time. Now Frank feels both gratified and worried by Pollock’s compliments. It feels good to him to be praised for a job well done, but he is already thinking about how he will portray it to April so as not to seem like he cares about his work at Knox.
That night, Frank tells April about the meeting. He says it’s hilarious that, after all these years, he gets noticed by Bart Pollock for a stupid brochure he whipped up in a morning. April hardly pays attention, interrupting him to tell Michael to sit up straight. Frank tells her that Pollock asked him to do a whole series of the brochures, but he will have to let him know he is leaving in the fall if the work becomes too involved. April suggests that he tell everyone at Knox now, but Frank says it would be awkward to tell them before he gives his final notice. Frank feels enraged at April’s reaction. When he pictured telling her the news, he imagined that she would say that he shouldn’t be dismissive of Pollock’s praise and should feel validated, even if the work isn’t very interesting. Instead, she seems utterly uninterested in his news.
Frank pictures April reacting supportively, as he believes a wife is supposed to. Instead, she instantly feels that recognition at Knox could cause Frank to back out of their plan to Europe. She gives him no validation, even paying attention to Michael (whom both parents have been oblivious of for weeks) instead. April doesn’t want to be married to a man who finds it exciting to be complimented for writing a pamphlet, and Frank knows this. Still, he is hurt by how completely indifferent his wife acts at this news of this success.