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Course Hero. "Seize the Day Study Guide." May 7, 2018. Accessed September 21, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Seize-the-Day/.

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Course Hero, "Seize the Day Study Guide," May 7, 2018, accessed September 21, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Seize-the-Day/.

Seize the Day | Plot Summary

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Summary

Wilhelm's Past

Tommy Wilhelm, a middle-aged man living in one of Manhattan's residential hotels, the Gloriana, with other, mostly retired, Jewish inhabitants, has made some mistakes in his life. In fact, he seems to find poor choices irresistible, often deciding something is definitely a bad idea before doing it anyway. When a casting agent sees his handsome photograph and calls him in for a screen test, Wilhelm ignores the agent's warnings that he tests poorly on camera and leaves college to pursue an acting career in California anyway. The acting career doesn't pan out.

Wilhelm ends up in a sales job with a wife and two children. Although he loves his children, he has left his wife Margaret, who refuses to give him a divorce. This refusal prevents him from marrying his mistress Olive, who has grown tired of waiting for him. Wilhelm has expected to earn an executive role in his company, so when the son-in-law of an executive is given half of Wilhelm's territory, he quits his job out of pride. Without an income and with a steady stream of bills from Margaret for the children, Wilhelm is soon in financial straits. He begins gambling—and losing—in a weekly game of gin with other residents, including Dr. Tamkin, who portrays himself as knowledgeable about commodities trading and convinces Wilhelm to invest his savings in shares of lard. Wilhelm expects to invest equal parts, but Tamkin has only $300 and asks Wilhelm to pitch in the remainder. At the brokerage office, Wilhelm has to sign a power of attorney to allow Tamkin to manage their account, an unexpected requirement that makes Wilhelm uneasy.

Morning

Wilhelm goes down to breakfast to find his father sitting with another resident, Mr. Perls. Dr. Adler finds his son's slovenly appearance and constant fidgeting annoying. He avoids Wilhelm when he can, and he can't understand why his son doesn't just work harder to take care of his responsibilities, as he himself has done his whole life. He refuses to give his adult children any money and wishes he could enjoy his old age in peace. Dr. Adler warns his son not to trust Tamkin. Dr. Adler and Mr. Perl laugh at Tamkin's dubious credentials as a doctor of psychology and his tall tales of inventions; this mockery bothers Wilhelm, who worries Tamkin may be misrepresenting himself. The price of lard has been dropping, and Wilhelm is anxious to get to the brokerage office to watch the reading for the day. He needs the price to increase to make ends meet. He can't even afford his monthly rent, let alone the bills Margaret has recently sent him. After Mr. Perls leaves the dining room, Wilhelm tells his father of his troubles with Margaret, and father and son argue.

Wilhelm leaves the table, upset. He meets Tamkin in the lobby. Although Wilhelm is in a hurry to get to the brokerage office, Tamkin is unconcerned and persuades Wilhelm to sit with him while he eats breakfast. He tells Wilhelm stories of his patients. It seems just about everyone has a strange mental issue if Tamkin is to be believed. Wilhelm wonders if anything Tamkin says is true. Growing impatient, Wilhelm insists they leave for the brokerage office. Tamkin assures Wilhelm he can't lose money, as modern technology pulls money out before prices drop too low. The two walk to the office, which is full of other traders. Tamkin tells Wilhelm he has sold part of their investment in lard and put it into rye, which is already up for the day. As the price of rye continues to rise, Wilhelm tells Tamkin to sell. It would almost cover their losses in lard. Tamkin refuses, encouraging Wilhelm to stick with it until they can really make a profit. The two go to a diner for lunch although Wilhelm has no appetite. Wilhelm thinks of Olive and wishes he could get out of the city and find some peace.

Afternoon

When they return to the brokerage office, another trader, an elderly man with poor eyesight named Mr. Rappaport, asks Wilhelm to take him to a cigar store. Wilhelm reluctantly takes Rappaport to the store, cursing his slowness. When he gets back to the office, he is horrified to find the price of rye has fallen dramatically, and lard is down, too. He has lost his money, all he had left. He tries hard not to cry and then looks around for Tamkin, who has vanished. Rappaport asks if Wilhelm plans to go to Maine like Tamkin. Wilhelm is furious, searching for Tamkin to get back the part of the investment he loaned the charlatan.

Tamkin is nowhere to be found at the office or at the hotel. Wilhelm feels like he can't breathe. He finds his father having a massage at the hotel pool and asks him again for help. His father becomes very angry and tells Wilhelm he would rather see his son dead than help him. Even if his father won't give him money, Wilhelm would be satisfied with his father's compassion, even a word of sympathy. There is a message at the front desk to call his wife, and he worries there is something wrong with his children. Instead, Margaret has contacted him to reprimand him for postdating his last check to her. She demands the money she feels he owes the family, and she is unsympathetic to his attempts to explain his financial struggles. She refuses his suggestion to get her own job. Wilhelm yells that her constant pressure is killing him, and she hangs up. Enraged, he leaves the hotel.

Outside, he thinks he sees Tamkin and is carried by the movement of the crowd into a funeral parlor. He finds himself in a line of people filing past an open coffin. Looking at the face of the dead man, Wilhelm's emotions come to the surface. He begins to cry, first for the man, then for himself and his troubles. He is overcome by sobbing, and the other guests wonder what his relationship with the deceased could be to show such grief. Wilhelm finally expresses all of the feelings he has been repressing.

Seize the Day Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction

Introduction

1 Dr. Tamkin talks Wilhelm into investing in commodities.

Rising Action

2 Dr. Adler refuses to loan Wilhelm any money.

3 Dr. Tamkin won't sell when they could to cover their losses.

4 Wilhelm loses all his money, and Dr. Tamkin disappears.

5 Dr. Adler and Margaret give Wilhelm no aid or sympathy.

6 Wilhelm gets pushed into a funeral.

Climax

7 Wilhelm begins to sob as his repressed emotions surface.

Falling Action

8 People wonder how he is related to the deceased.

Resolution

9 Wilhelm feels "happy oblivion" in his sorrow.

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