Joe leaves his home to meet Parry, who is leaning against a tree looking pathetic and harmless. Joe refuses Parry’s invitation to go to a coffee house and Parry tells him “something’s happened” (pg. 62). Joe is confused about what Parry means, but Parry thinks he is playing games with him and accuses Joe of trying to be controlling. He pleads with Joe using lovers’ terminology and when Joe still doesn’t respond, Parry says, “You love me, and there’s nothing I can do but return your love… All I know is that I love you too now, and that there’s a reason for it, a purpose” (pg. 63). Joe tells Parry that he is wrong and asks him why he thinks that. Parry begins to cry, again pleading with Joe to stop the show.
The scene begins to look like a parody of two lovers and Parry fluctuates rapidly between emotional states. Joe asks him what purpose he thinks that they have and Parry begins to come out of his shell. He explains that God sent Joe to Parry in order to bring Joe to God. For Parry, the “gift of love” is about being a part of Christ’s love. Parry asks to see him again and Joe is astounded by how familiar their interactions are; they nearly perfectly mimic “old emotional sub-routines.” Joe asks Parry for his address for protection and gets into a taxi. Parry refuses to let him go, explaining to him that he will help Joe tell Clarissa. Joe suddenly feels a bit more threatened upon hearing Clarissa’s name and orders the driver to go.
Distracting himself from Parry, Joe begins to think about his new article about the smile. The trend in science is now for evolutionary biologists to reconstruct the social sciences in Neo-Darwinism terms. Joe admits that Clarissa hates this trend and calls it “the new fundamentalism” and “rationalism gone berserk” (pg. 70). Clarissa criticizes the overanalyzing of things like a baby’s smile, claiming that they are losing sight of the whole. While Joe claims to agree with her, she claims he doesn’t understand her. She says she is talking about love, but Joe recollects that they were actually talking about their lack of children.
Joe arrives home from his errands and finds Parry waiting for him, claiming that Joe told him to. Joe walks quickly into his house and finds the phone ringing. It’s Parry, and Joe hangs up. Parry keeps calling and Joe tries to ignore it, but eventually calls the police on the fax line. Filtered through the police’s bureaucratic questions, Parry’s harassment isn’t a crime because he hasn’t threatened Joe. Joe gives up and goes to distract himself. He’s reminded of a repeating dissatisfaction he has, that his work isn’t his own scientific work. He feels that he’s a parasite on others and wasting his advanced science degrees.
Joe explains to the reader how a failed patent application put a large hole in his resume and prevented him from getting into academic science. On the way home from a job interview he realized the gap in the public’s knowledge about elementary scientific matters and decided to write a book about dinosaurs. His book was successful and he became a scientific journalist, although now he feels like an “outsider to [his] own profession” (pg. 77). Joe interrupts his brooding to check the answering machine; Parry has left him twenty-nine messages. In his last, Parry says something about the curtains that confuses Joe. Joe retires to his study to brood some more on his “failure.”
Chapter seven is the first real interaction between Jed and Parry where Joe is conscious of Parry’s potential threat. As a definite antagonist, Parry takes on more significance, and we receive a more thorough characterization of him. Parry is young and fragile, perhaps only a harmless eccentric, as Clarissa has classified him. However, at the same time, Parry is delusional to the point of madness and emotionally unstable. He varies between pleading, crying, being reasonable, and occasionally almost threatening. As typical words of unrequited love, Parry’s words are almost familiar to both Joe and the reader, but also wild and incomprehensible. Like the wind in the balloon accident, Parry is a chaotic force of destruction.
Parry’s ultimate message to Joe, that their love’s purpose is to bring Joe to God, combines the themes of “reading” and “love.” Parry “reads” his and Joe’s love through the lens of divine love, religious salvation. For Clarissa, in her argument with Joe about a baby’s smile, her lens is also love, but in this case natural, familial love. Parry is again a foil to Clarissa. While they both speak of love’s power, Clarissa’s is natural and Parry’s is confusing and unfamiliar.
Parry also works as a foil in the theme of reading with respect to points of view. Whereas Joe and Clarissa are both sane readers (Joe is a strict rationalist while Clarissa is both romantic and Romantic), Parry represents an insane and irrational type of reading. In his irrational belief that Joe loves him, Parry parodies Joe and Clarissa’s sane reading. Looked at from a linguistic angle, Parry’s name symbolizes his relationship to Joe and Clarissa: his love for Joe is a parody of their actual, natural love.
Joe’s preoccupation with his failed academic career both characterizes him and foreshadows his actions. Much like Joe and Clarissa’s love, Joe’s life seems idyllic, but underneath his successful career lurks deep discontent. Parry’s crazed love exploits this flaw and precipitates Joe’s downfall. In a foreshadowing moment, Joe explains that he feels like an “outsider” in his own profession. In his investigation into Parry’s love, he will become an outsider to Clarissa, his former life, and society. The feeling of being “outside” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as Joe’s actions drive him further and further away from what he loves.