It is natural for all humans to make sense of distressing circumstances with reference to time, the narrator says. The synchronized watches of soldiers facing a bombing, the appointment calendar of the business executive who feels that his schedule is too full and so no tragedy can strike, even the ability of the old man to remember the year of his first wife’s death: these things, along with the changing of the seasons, help to create a sense of order out of chaos. Frank and April place the date of conception in the first week in May, on an occasion when her diaphragm had felt loose, and this means they have until the first week in August to decide whether April should induce an abortion in the way her old friend from acting school told her to. They mark the passage of time on a calendar hanging on the kitchen wall.
At the beginning of the novel’s third part, it broadens its scope to include the general human experience. Instead of looking at the Wheelers and their issues, the narrator considers the way humans rely on measuring time to bring order to their life. By comparing Frank and April to soldiers facing danger, a person pretending danger is impossible, and an old man reflecting back on a loss long after it has happened, the narrator emphasizes that the decision that Frank and April are facing during the summer of 1955 is one of the most momentous of their lives. They feel the weight of this decision, but do not recognize how universal their experience really is.
The night that Frank finds the rubber syringe, April and Frank decide that there is plenty of time to discuss what to do together. They both see the weeks leading up to the first week of the third month of her pregnancy as enough time to convince the other. Frank looks at convincing April not to have an abortion as something like a courtship or a sales campaign. He takes her out to fancy restaurants to show her how much more interesting their life can be once they have more money. When April argues that he will not be able to discover his true passion if they do not move, he says that he is not willing to let her mutilate herself for him. April says that women have abortions all the time, but he sticks to the position that abortion is a crime against her body, and eventually he sees that she is embarrassed to be advocating for something so indecent.
During this period of negotiation neither Frank nor April says what they really want. April pretends she wants to go to Paris for Frank’s sake, while Frank pretends he wants April to have the baby because he is morally opposed to abortion. Frank pushes the idea that abortion is immoral, suggesting that, as a man, it is his responsibility to protect April from endangering herself for his sake. Deep down, however, they both know that April wants to go to Paris for her own reasons, and April knows that Frank will find this attitude too independent for a woman and will be hurt and angry that she does not want him to be the center of her life.
Frank also begins to try to show April what a strong, responsible, manly man he is. He holds himself very upright so he will look taller, clenches his jaw, and gets out of bed each morning before April wakes so that she won’t see him asleep. He feels slightly uncomfortable when he thinks about how disingenuous he is being, but he comforts himself that she also play-acted to convince him to move to Europe. Frank feels he could easily win April over if he could use this technique to influence her all day every day. But while he is at work, she is stuck in the boring world of their home. Meanwhile, Helen Givings continually drops by, pretending to want to talk about the sale of their house, which they have not yet called off, but actually intending to schedule more visits with John.
For the first time in the novel, it becomes clear how well Frank sees through April’s attempts to convince him that she wants to move to Europe so that he can find himself. He realizes that she is unhappy, but does not want to allow her to pursue a life that would make her happy. This is partially because controlling her makes him feel like a man, but Frank also doesn’t question himself, because he lives in a society that sees women as living their best lives as housewives. April’s desire for change not only feels threatening to Frank; it is illegitimate in his eyes.
After an exhausting Saturday spent with the Campbells, Frank’s attempts to convince April enter a new phase. April says that Frank is a much more moral person than she is, but he replies that this has nothing to do with morality, or at least not conventional morality. April objects, saying that there is no kind of morality other than conventional. Frank wants to scream at her in frustration and tell her she is a snob, but he only says that she must be tired, and he knows she knows better than that. She disagrees, saying she doesn’t understand the real meaning behind many of the things he says. Frank feels disheartened: he doesn’t know how will he convince her if everything he says is just words.
Frank sees himself as an independent thinker who feels oppressed by social structures, but his arguments for why April should not abort her pregnancy are based on traditional ideas. When April says she doesn’t understand why there is a moral reason not to have an abortion, she adopts the same non-conformist attitude Frank often does. But Frank likes for women to admire this attitude in him—as when he told Maureen his thoughts about society—but not hold it themselves. He feels threatened by April’s insistence on thinking independently and considers it pretentious snobbishness.
Frank decides to use a method he thought of as a final resort to try to convince April. He says that her motives may not be straightforward, but instead spring from emotions about her childhood. She asks if he means that she is emotionally disturbed. He denies this, but then goes on to indirectly assert that she is. Frank suggests that rejection by her own parents may have made April reluctant to have children. April says that she has had two children, but Frank retorts that she has wanted to abort two of them. April says that she can’t help what she feels, even if it is somehow the result of her childhood. Speaking very gently, Frank says that they ought to bring her to a psychoanalyst. April says she wants to stop talking and go to bed. Frank fears he has lost the fight.
Frank’s attempts to convince April to keep the baby because her life will be better once he makes more money and because it is immoral to have an abortion have failed. Now he suggests that her desire to abort her child is a sign of mental illness. He does this in the hopes that the fear of being labeled crazy will push April to agree to keep the pregnancy and give up on the plan to move to Europe. Frank refers to Freudian psychoanalytic ideas that suggest that unresolved issues in childhood can create emotional disturbances for adults.
The next day is the Sunday of John Givings’s visit. John is in an agitated state when he arrives with Helen and Howard. Frank hopes that seeing a “full-fledged mental case” will convince April that she ought to care whether she is crazy. John asks when they are leaving for Europe, saying he wants Frank’s help finding a lawyer. He pulls Frank aside, saying that he needs Frank’s help to get in touch with a lawyer who can help him determine whether he has any rights. Howard Givings slowly approaches and John yells for him not to interrupt his conversation with Frank. Helen apologizes to the Wheelers, saying they shouldn’t have come, and the Givings family departs.
John exemplifies what can happen to someone who bucks society’s expectations. Instead of being charged with a crime for the incident with his parents, during which he did not physically harm anyone, he has been locked up in a mental institution indefinitely. He is being denied access to a lawyer and treated like a child by his parents. Although she is not acting violent, April is also trying to go against social codes, and to break the law barring all abortions.
After the Givings family leaves, April says that John’s childhood must have been bad with parents like the Givings, but says that Frank probably thinks he is better off than she is just because he had parents. Frank denies that he means this. Later, after a night of tense silence, April asks Frank if he sees her desire for an abortion as “sort of a denial of womanhood.” He says that he doesn’t know—only an expert could say for sure—but he remembers reading about a woman who kept trying to get rid of her pregnancies because of “an infantile penis-envy thing.” Frank continues, saying that if most little girls initially want to be boys, but get over this desire by wanting to emulate their mothers in setting up homes and having children, then it makes sense that April never felt that way, since she had no mother.
April has clearly been thinking about what Frank said the day before, although it is unclear whether she agrees with him. Frank presents a vivid explanation for April’s desire not to have children. In his account, she never learned how to be a real woman because she never had a mother. Frank makes up a theory that abortions are the sign of unresolved “penis envy,” suggesting that April doesn’t want to have children because she has an abnormal desire to be a man that she will need professional help to cure (though this is also based on some of Freud’s now-debunked theories of psychoanalysis).
April asks how they will find a good psychiatrist, but then says it doesn’t really matter. With tears in her eyes, she says there isn’t much to more to say. Frank knows that in the remaining eleven days before the deadline she might change her mind. He decides he needs to be vigilant for these days, first letting everyone know that they are cancelling their plan to move to Europe.
Frank wants April to have the baby, and by telling her that she is crazy if she does not have it, he has forced her capitulation. April says that it doesn’t matter whether they find a good psychiatrist or not, perhaps suggesting that she has given up altogether.