One night, after Babette has finished teaching a class on correct posture in a nearby Congregational church, she and Jack lounge in bed, asking each other what they each want sexually. They determine that Babette will read erotic literature aloud to Jack, but in the process of deciding what to read—as well as debating which of them the act is intended to please—they become sidetracked and end up innocently thumbing through a collection of old family photo albums. It is the nature of their marriage, Jack says, to tell one another everything. The chapter ends with the bare statement of the one question that keeps incessantly tugging at both of them: “Who will die first?”
Once more, the fear of death is ever-present. Even during calm, happy moments, Jack can’t banish it from his mind. As such, death is framed as both literally and intellectually inescapable. However, though Jack will inevitably die, it isn’t necessarily the case that thinking about this demise is unavoidable. Nonetheless, he conflates the two notions such that death becomes, in effect, a psychological condition.