Homo Faber

Homo Faber Summary and Analysis of "Second Stop" to "Cuba"

The narrative takes a significant jump ahead. Walter is in a hospital in Athens. The date is July 19th. Walter is writing the narrative by hand, because they have taken away his typewriter (it is rest time). He is annoyed at having to write by hand. Walter writes that it is very hot and that Hanna visits him daily but never sits down. She also visits the grave daily. Walter wonders how he can make it up to her. He is a little afraid she is going mad. Sabeth died six weeks ago today.

The narrative returns to June 8th. Walter has just arrived back in New York from Athens. He is at Williams's usual Saturday-night party. He has told no one that his daughter died, or even that he had a daughter. He is drinking too much. Suddenly everyone is talking about Italian art, and once again Walter feels left out. Walter is staying in a hotel, since he cannot get the keys to his apartment. Ivy has not dropped them off as she said she would. When he arrived from the airport he could not get in. He went on a sightseeing boat, then to the movies, just to pass the time. In the hotel he rang his own number several times, but no one picked up. Then he went to the party.

When he leaves he is very drunk, and on his way across Times Square, he stops at a phone booth and again dials his own number. This time, someone picks up, but Walter cannot make the person understand that this is his phone number. The man says he has never heard of Walter Faber and hangs up. Walter does not know what to do, so he finally hangs up, too.

The narrative shifts back to the hospital. Walter is thinking about his operation and whether it will cure him. He is comforted by the positive statistics, but not as comforted as when Sabeth was in this same hospital. He is glad that he is in Athens, where he can talk to Hanna. He wants her to talk to him, but she still does not. He decides he could not have cancer, or else they would have operated right away.

On June 9th, Walter had flown to Caracas. The turbines he was supposed to assemble were finally ready. His stomach was bothering him very much. He took a side trip to see Herbert. Everything made him nostalgic, for everything was the same. He wished that it were still two months ago and that nothing else had ever happened. Herbert was extremely surprised, even suspicious, to see him. He thought that Walter had been sent to fetch him back. Walter mended Herbert's glasses. Walter had brought Herbert gasoline--but Herbert laughed at him. He had not even started the car since Walter left. The engine was in disarray from the heat and humidity, and Walter spent the rest of his visit painstakingly fixing the car. Herbert did not seem to care.

Back in the hospital, Hanna and Walter have had a fight about technology. Hanna thinks that technology means distancing oneself from experiencing the world. Walter does not understand Hanna's point. Then Hanna tells him that the real problem with the technologist (such as himself) is that he tries to live without death. That was the problem with Walter's relationship with Sabeth. He tried to pretend there was no such thing as age. Hanna points out that one cannot do away with age by marrying one's child.

On June 20th, Walter arrived in Caracas. He started to supervise the assembly, and he kept going as long as possible, but then his stomach trouble became very bad. He sent a telegram to Athens, but it went unanswered. Walter tried to write Hanna several letters, but he realized he had no idea where she was.

Back in the hospital, the deaconess has brought Walter a mirror. He is horrified by how he looks. He is so old, so sickly. He decides he could not possibly have looked like this two months before. Still, as he looks longer at himself he grows used to himself. He decides he really does not look so different--but after the operation, he will have to do something about his teeth. Walter writes a postscript in his diary, noting that his old teacher is dead. Then he writes another, telling himself that he simply needs fresh air and exercise.


Walter's confusion about his identity reaches a climax in this section. He feels more distant than ever from Williams and his other friends, because they do not know that Walter's life has completely changed. Now he is a father whose daughter has died. Walter is further thrown off kilter by his inability to get into his apartment. Though he makes a tremendous effort to go on with his life as if nothing were different (for example, he goes by the Chinese laundry that he uses for his shirts, and they recognize him and give him three shirts he had left there), Walter is physically being prevented from reassuming his old life. Walter's identity crisis reaches its climax when he calls what he thinks is his apartment and someone else picks up, claiming never to have heard of "Walter Faber." Even though Walter can think of logical explanations, he finds no comfort in them.

Despite the obstacles, Walter continues to try to rewrite his narrative by reliving through the literary narrative the events that led to his meeting Sabeth. Walter continues to deny the reality of Sabeth's death by reenacting the cycle of events in such a way that he neither meets Sabeth nor falls in love with her nor causes her death. Walter likewise needs to return to Venezuela to complete the project that he was unable to complete on his last trip. Furthermore, Walter chooses to repeat his visit to the plantation on the way. Walter clearly hopes to convince Herbert to leave the plantation and return to Germany, as if he is trying to save Herbert from repeating Joachim's ending. Though his actions are hollow--Walter canot meet Sabeth again, first of all because she is dead--Walter's actions at least partially affirm the idea that Walter could have made different choices in the past, and therefore he could have avoided his tragic fate. Walter does not find it easy to give up a worldview he has long taken comfort in and depended upon.

For the same reason, Walter insists on repairing Herbert's jeep so that he has the means of leaving the plantation. Despite repeated experiences of technology proving inadequate or breaking down, Walter is still invested in the necessity of technology. One might even argue that Walter sees technology as providing the very choices that allow human beings to escape the dictates of fate. Even so, Walter's actions demonstrate some growth. Walter does not repair the car simply because he takes comfort in properly functioning technology; he sincerely wishes to help Herbert. His use of technology is motivated by his feelings of connection to Herbert. This connection is limited in that he is completely unable to understand that Herbert might have found a kind of happiness in a place with so little modern technology.

Another important theme in this section of the novel is the growing importance of Walter's fear of death. Hanna focuses the reader's attention on this underlying theme when she points out that Walter could not have escaped death by marrying his child. One begins to wonder whether Walter's Professor really looked so terrible--was he actually about to die, or is Walter just waiting for him to die so that his own guilt for sleeping with that man's dying wife will be extinguished? Now that he is himself afraid of dying, Walter looks in a mirror and sees an old man. He convinces himself that he looks fine in order to convince himself that he will not die.