Ron continues his life story. In 1977, at the age of thirty-two, Ron buys a $275,000 mansion. His business continues to grow and, as it does, Ron often donates thousands of dollars to charity. With Deborah, Ron attends black-tie charity galas, but Deborah sees such events as foolish—since so much of the donated money is spent on decoration, press coverage, and attire—and thinks they should just send a check and stay home. Ron establishes a partnership in New York with another art dealer, and spends much of his year traveling between New York, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Italy, while his family stays home in Texas. Ron commits himself to his work, buying new cars and fancy toys along the way.
This is the greatest indicator of Ron’s tainting of compassion with ego, which is one of the major themes of the story. Although Ron is giving thousands of dollars away, he seems as interested in the praise it earns him as whatever good it actually does for someone else. Deborah, however, works as a foil to Ron’s ego-boosting generosity. She is uninterested in praise or press coverage and sees the vanity in Ron’s new wealth, success, and philanthropy.
Meanwhile, Deborah and the kids are committed Christians. Deborah begins working with different ministries and putting all her time and energy into “know[ing] God.” As Ron and Deborah pursue their separate passions, their love for each other dwindles. In 1988, Ron has an affair with a young artist in Beverly Hills. Though he only sees her twice, some friends find out and pressure Ron into confessing the affair to Deborah. Enraged, Deborah throws vases, shoes, art, anything she can find at Ron, before finally demanding that he give her his mistress’s phone number.
Ron and Deborah’s characters develop in opposite directions. While Ron is becoming more and more preoccupied with wealth, possessions, and recognition, Deborah commits herself to service and selflessness, again acting as a foil to Ron’s vanity.
Deborah immediately calls the young artist and forgives her, telling her that it was not her fault but Deborah’s own for not being a good enough wife. She hangs up and tells Ron, “You and I are now going to rewrite the future history of our marriage.” If Ron will commit to a few months of marriage counseling, Deborah will stay with him and never bring up the affair again. Ron agrees.
Again, compared to Ron’s selfishness, Deborah exhibits an extraordinary amount of grace in her ability to forgive. Ron and Deborah’s differing dispositions create a value statement, comparing a life in pursuit of money to a life in pursuit of Christian faith, arguing that pursuing Christian faith as Deborah does creates a better quality of character.