Anthony and Gloria have moved once more to an apartment with lower rent. Muriel Kane visits one day. Anthony, who is steadily gaining weight and often drunk, offers her a drink. She says she no longer drinks. When Anthony tells her that the lawsuit is still dragging out, she asks why he doesn’t go to work. He says that even if he does, there is little hope of making enough money to finance an aristocratic lifestyle. Muriel claims that it is not money but integrity that defines the aristocracy over the middle class. Anthony begs to differ. Gloria agrees that she and Anthony should not pretend to belong to the same social class as their former friends, who no longer welcome their company.
Even Muriel Kane, who used to be the butt of all the jokes at parties, has cleaned up her act, demonstrating that Anthony’s drunkenness and unemployment are both embarrassing and a childish holdover from days past. The question of whether it is money or integrity that defines the aristocratic class is discouraging to Anthony and Gloria, who are realizing that they have neither.
The conversation turns to Maury Noble, who has been avoiding Anthony since one of Anthony’s recent drunken outbursts. Anthony begins to tear up, and Gloria says it is his fault that his best friend no longer speaks to him. Muriel says that Maury is marrying a girl from Philadelphia and has gotten rich since the war. Anthony recalls that the last thing Maury said to him was that he was going to work to forget the existential pointlessness of working. Muriel says maybe Anthony should do the same so that he and Gloria can rejoin their friends in society instead of “economizing.” Gloria scoffs that Anthony just bought an expensive barrel of whiskey. Anthony storms out.
Unable to accept responsibility for the strain in his and Maury’s relationship, Anthony acts as though the falling out was a tragic twist of fate. He and Maury seem to agree on the pointlessness of working, but Maury’s way of dealing with this existential realization has unequivocally worked out better for him. In order to deal with his frustration over the matter, Anthony digs himself even deeper into poverty and inability to work by spending large amounts of money on alcohol. Gloria has stopped supporting his irresponsibility, which even the socially inept Muriel can identify.
Muriel is shocked at Anthony’s behavior. She is more shocked to hear Gloria say that Anthony is drunk – he did not show it at all. He never appears drunk anymore, Gloria says, unless he gets excited. Muriel asks if Anthony storms out often, and Gloria says that he does. He will come back around midnight, weeping and asking for forgiveness.
Anthony’s drinking has become such a part of his character that his drunkenness is no longer visible to acquaintances. Anthony and Gloria’s dysfunction has settled into a routine that is disturbing to Muriel but completely normal to Gloria, who knows no other reality.
Muriel and Gloria sit together, Gloria thinking but not saying aloud that she wishes Anthony would take her out somewhere she could show off her new dress. After Muriel leaves, Gloria takes a walk through the city. She wants to sit somewhere with coffee and rolls but has barely any change in her purse, so she returns home to have dinner there. She reads a magazine with disinterest and pours herself one drink and then another for something to do. Soon she realizes she is weeping and shaking her head. The narrator comments that although Gloria does not realize it, this gesture “of denial, of protest, of bewilderment” is “years older than history.”
Left alone, Gloria does not have the means to buy things on credit the way Anthony can, but must rely on only the change in her purse. She must therefore sink deeper into her loneliness, isolating herself at home. Despite seeing the increasing problem of Anthony’s alcoholism, Gloria drinks out of boredom. The narrator’s comment about the age of Gloria’s gesture once again recalls the idea that Gloria is a representation of something beyond her individual self. She is beauty, but she is also countless victims of society.
Anthony gives up his membership to all his clubs because the dues are too cumbersome. He begins spending time with new friends who do not know him as well as Dick and Maury. He is drunk every day. Although he finds himself taunting Gloria about her increasingly frantic use of beauty products when he is drunk, he is nice to her when he is sober—but he hates being sober. It makes him dwell on his hopeless financial situation. Sometimes he thinks that if he can’t exist among the wealthy elite, he might as well exist among the poorest of poor. Drinking provides escape into such sentiments as “the old illusion that truth and beauty were in some way entwined.”
Anthony’s solution to his dwindling finances is further social isolation as well. His drinking causes friction with Gloria and makes them both lonelier in their marriage, but he cannot bring himself not to drink because it snaps him back into reality. Anthony is becoming disillusioned about the importance of beauty, but he does not want this disillusionment. His mocking of Gloria for her obsession with beauty products is hypocritical for this reason.
One day, Anthony meets Richard Caramel for the first time in months. Dick tells Anthony that he has been hearing stories about his and Gloria’s exploits and that they should calm down. Anthony tells him that they are simply in the public light because of the lawsuit. Dick tells Anthony that he is surprised at the fact that Maury has become a “tightfisted aristocrat” while Anthony has fallen on hard times and neglected to publish writing. Of the three of them, Dick would have thought himself least likely to achieve literary success, but he has.
Dick’s concern demonstrates how far behind Anthony has been left by his friends as they have advanced into adulthood. Dick, once the least successful of the three friends, now looks down upon Anthony as a childish, extravagant spender. Anthony resists criticism by making fun of Maury in the way he and Maury used to make fun of Dick. Dick uses the opportunity to once again reflect on his own comparative success.
Anthony and Dick go back to Dick’s house, which is full of books. Anthony tells Dick that beauty can’t be developed any further in poetry, only through the novel. Dick, on the other hand, is skeptical of the novel. Anthony notices that displayed between Mark Twain and Dreiser are the works of Richard Caramel. He feels a comforting sense of his old disgust for Dick, even though he knows his contempt is not fair. That night, Dick works away on his writing while Anthony lies passed out in the back of a cab.
Anthony does everything he can to rationalize his own position in life. His attempts rely on his ability to demonstrate himself as superior to Dick, which is difficult now that Dick has made a name for himself. Anthony settles for disgust at Dick’s self-satisfaction, but he can’t deny that Dick has far more reason than Anthony for self-satisfaction. Dick’s continued hard work, even after a modicum of success, contrasts with Anthony’s pathetic drunkenness in the back of the cab.
As winter approaches, Anthony seems to be seized by “madness.” He and Gloria are both aware that his drinking is a problem, but it is only tolerable to either of them when he is drunk. Aside from drinking, he reads a lot. Contrary to what she has always wished for herself, Gloria begins adopting the habits of a housewife. The only thing the couple discusses is the pending lawsuit. Gloria is very lonely and worries about both her age and her continued maternal ambivalence.
Anthony and Gloria have habitually been trapped by their own inertia, but every time they think their situation can get no worse, they seem to find a way to dig themselves into a deeper hole. As the time passes and they sink deeper into unhappiness, the only thing sustaining them is the hope of the lawsuit they are by no means guaranteed to win.
Gloria comes home from an errand to buy beauty products one day to find Anthony pacing, agitated that his bank account has been closed because it was empty. He works Gloria up into a panic as well by ranting about how they will have to start selling things they own. She says that an income of two hundred a month is “worse than nothing.” Should they lose the lawsuit, she suggests, “we can live in Italy for three years, and then just die.” It is the first flush of emotion Gloria has felt in days. Anthony responds that even if they lose, they will have to pay the lawyer.
Anthony should not be surprised that his bank account has been closed, but he acts as though it is a horrible shock because he has been in denial over the true state of his finances. Growing older without the material trappings of aristocracy is such a terrifying prospect to Gloria that she would rather die young than cut back on expenses. Anthony also vocalizes the reality that the huge investment in the lawsuit may have been foolish. The panic the couple feels is not necessarily an acceptance of reality but rather the creation of another fantasy, one of melodrama, that is a welcome interruption to their usual depressive routine.
Anthony and Gloria begin listing to each other people they might ask for a loan. There seems to be a problem with asking each candidate. When Anthony suggests Bloeckman, Gloria tells him about the fiasco of the screen test. Anthony exclaims that it was insolent to mistake Gloria for thirty. She tells him that regardless, they are almost out of food and need to find money. Anthony says he is going to sell his watch. Gloria asks him to leave some money behind, but he pretends not to hear her on his way out the door. He spends the evening drinking with his new friends.
The couple’s persistence in their youthful ways this far into adulthood has cut them off entirely from the friendships they once forged through these selfsame youthful ways. Anthony makes a show of being protective over Gloria, but when she asks for money for the basic necessity of food, he proves unable to resist retreating into the illusion of safety that drinking offers him.
After several rounds, Anthony feigns having forgotten his pocketbook, and one of his friends pays for his drinks. He does not want to go home, so he stumbles drunk though the streets. He runs into Maury Noble with his fiancée and attempts to ask him for a loan. Maury seems embarrassed and brushes Anthony off. Anthony decides to go into the Biltmore hotel, for reasons of which he is not sure. It occurs to him that he might place a phone call. He calls the operator to find out where he might find Joseph Bloeckman, now Black.
Still believing himself deserving of everything he wants, including alcohol, Anthony finds ways to obtain it at the expense of good social conduct. Anthony’s interaction with Maury demonstrates just how far Anthony has fallen out of social grace, ironically achieving the separation from the masses he has always coveted. Anthony’s decision to go after Bloeckman rather than do something more useful to Gloria, such as provide food, shows that his protectiveness over her is rooted in performativity and the desire to prove himself.
Anthony finds Bloeckman at a dancing club. He attempts to confront Bloeckman about Gloria’s film rejection. Surmising that Anthony is drunk, Bloeckman asks him to leave. When Anthony insults Bloeckman for being Jewish, Bloeckman hits Anthony. Bloeckman then gets several waiters to throw Anthony, bodily, out onto the sidewalk. A passerby attempts to help him, and Anthony boasts that his grandfather is Adam Patch. When asked where he lives so that the passerby can help him home, Anthony feels that his address is incongruous with his boast about his grandfather and asks for a taxi instead. It becomes clear that Anthony has no money to pay the driver. The helpful passerby gives up and leaves Anthony on the sidewalk once more. He stays there until he is nearly sober.
In the midst of Anthony’s disgraceful display of public drunkenness, he fails to see that he is the one who is acting deplorably, not Bloeckman. The more he embarrasses himself, the more he feels the need to assert his social superiority to Bloeckman by pointing out such things as Bloeckman’s Jewishness and Anthony’s own connection to Adam Patch, even though Adam Patch effectively severed this connection before his death. Anthony’s refusal to give his address shows that he is worried that he will be found out as a fraud. He would prefer to sit on the sidewalk, in complete social disgrace, than let it be known that he lives in a middle-class apartment.
Three weeks later, in March, the trial comes to an end after four and a half years of legal red tape. The trial has involved a great deal of character attacks on Shuttleworth and other beneficiaries of Adam Patch’s will. Anthony wakes a nervous mess the day the verdict is to be read. He plans to meet Gloria, who is spending the day with Dick, at the courthouse. After Gloria leaves the apartment with Dick, Anthony finds a letter from the American Legion asking for his dues. He throws the letter away. If they win the lawsuit, he thinks, they will go to Italy. He remembers Italy nostalgically, which makes him begin ruminating on his age. He is thirty-three and looks forty. Just as he resolves that things will be different if they win the lawsuit, Dorothy shows up at the door of the apartment.
Anthony’s reflection on the distasteful events of the trial show that he knows he has cornered himself into either financial ruin, social disgrace, or both. He clings to the hope that if he and Gloria win the lawsuit, he can make an exile of himself and start fresh—but even his idea of starting fresh involves a retreat to the nostalgic landscape of his youthful European jaunt with Maury. Although Anthony and Gloria’s concern over their advancing age has seemed foolish up to now, it seems that Anthony’s age actually is catching up to him because he has lived so recklessly. It might be too late to set his life back on course for the future, so he will instead try to live in the past. This nostalgic longing also proves dangerous when Dorothy shows up, bringing his past into violent collision with his present.
Dorothy tells Anthony that she tracked him down through a newspaper story about the lawsuit. She pleads with him in earnest to be with her. She believes she will die if he does not reciprocate her love. Anthony tells her that she must leave. She sits down and starts telling him to hit her. He begins yelling repeatedly, “I’ll kill you.” In his mounting panic, he grabs a heavy chair and throws it at her. As he lets it go, a cloud closes in around him, and he passes out.
The fact that Dorothy was able to track Anthony down via the news indicates the extent of the disgraceful scandal he has created around himself. Dorothy’s pleas with Anthony to hit her reveal her own psychological pain, but they also raise the question of whether or not Anthony can hit her. It is not clear during the scene whether Dorothy is actually there or whether the scene takes place in Anthony’s tortured mind.
Gloria and Dick come in later to find a smashed chair, the smell of perfume, and Anthony on the bathroom floor clutching his stamp collection. They tell him that they have won the lawsuit. He tells them they must leave, or else he will tell grandfather, and then he throws a handful of stamps up in the air and lets them fall around him.
The lingering smell of perfume when Gloria and Dick arrive seems to suggest that Dorothy was in fact in the apartment. However, her absence and the evidence that Anthony simply threw the chair on the ground indicates that the conflict was less between Anthony and Dorothy than between Anthony and himself. The altercation has left Anthony completely unable to communicate, trapped in the sanctuary of his bathroom and repeating his youthful attempts at escapism by thumbing through his stamp collection.
On the deck of a ship, two onlookers stare at Anthony, who is sitting in a wheelchair. One tells the other that he must be thinking of the millions of dollars he has recently inherited. It is said that he is “mad” following the lawsuit and Shuttleworth’s subsequent suicide. The second onlooker asks after Gloria. The first says that she was recently on deck but is now nowhere to be seen. The narrator states that Anthony is in fact not thinking about his money, but rather he is reminiscing about his trials and tribulations. He feels that he has endured all of them alone, even in Gloria’s presence. He tears up as he whispers to himself, “I showed them…It was a hard fight, but I didn’t give up and I came through!”
Anthony has achieved his goal of becoming a public figure, but he is regarded with pity and derision instead of awe and respect. He has also ruined not only his life but also Shuttleworth’s life. Gloria is mysteriously absent from the scene. Her disappearance (eight years after meeting Anthony, and fifteen years after the scene in which the narrator introduced Beauty as a character) confirms that she has functioned throughout the novel as the embodiment of beauty, always destined to disappear after fifteen years in Jazz-Age New York. Anthony’s final line is not inaccurate. He is a victor, having finally won the appealed lawsuit. However, to echo the novel’s epigraph, the spoils of victory have destroyed his chance at real happiness and success.