Study Guide

The Interestings Chapter 4

By Meg Wolitzer

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Chapter 4

  • Nothing like an abrupt opening sentence about Dennis's history with depression.
  • We find out that Dennis and Jules met at a dinner party in the fall of 1981, when this chapter takes place.
  • Jules has moved to the city to try being an actor.
  • There's a telling moment when the narrative explains how little everyone thinks about mental illness until it's up in their faces.
  • Dennis's upstairs neighbor, Isadora, throws the dinner party and tells Jules ahead of time that Dennis is basically a plain old average dude.
  • We learn a little bit about how Jules got to the actual city area of New York—she graduated from the State University of New York and finally moved to where all her camp friends were from.
  • Unsurprisingly, though, life in New York right out of school isn't super glamorous.
  • Jules's attempts at being an actor aren't going well, particularly since her whole shtick is being only sort of funny.
  • Ash and Jules are taking an acting class together at this moment, and Jules is way worse than Ash at it.
  • Jules's favorite part is eating dinner after class alone with Ash, because evidently Jules is really possessive about her friends.
  • Ash encourages Jules to continue trying to act even though she stinks.
  • Back to the dinner party scene, Jules is introduced as an actor to Dennis, who is introduced in turn as a temp at a clinic.
  • Historical context moment: They've moved from living under Nixon's presidency to living under Reagan's, and they find them both blah.
  • Totally random tangent into a description of how Jules's childhood home has gotten all old and broken-down.
  • Back to Dennis: He's unlike anyone else at the dinner party—he doesn't know who he is or what he wants, but he's solid.
  • The other party guests are introduced: Robert Takahashi, a gay Japanese-American with a great body, and Janine Banks, a person who… gets no description.
  • Jules thinks that Robert should meet her friend Jonah Bay, but then briefly remembers something we don't understand about Jonah and indoctrination into a farm church.
  • Robert tells a story about fooling around with a colleague, Trey, until they both discovered Trey had a cancer that's usually for old people.
  • It seems Robert is actually really freaked out by this and thinks there's something in the air at work that's poisoning people.
  • Dennis finally contributes to the conversation by talking about how he controls his reactions to things.
  • Jules agrees with Dennis because she wrote a paper about the method he uses in a psych class.
  • Isadora makes a dumb comment about Jules and Dennis kissing, which we know isn't really so dumb given that this is a chapter about how they met.
  • The other people tell some boring stories, then Jules tells a story about using people's emotional baggage for a psych experiment on body language.
  • There's a jump forward in time where we learn that Isadora eventually leaves New York, possibly becomes a dog groomer in Florida, and then dies in a traffic accident.
  • Jules and Dennis, looking at Isadora's death notice, feel sad about her death and don't understand why, since they never really liked her in life.
  • Back to the dinner party briefly so Jules can think about her interest in Dennis and his in her.
  • Jules reminisces about dating in college, which was gross and uneventful, and this leads to a description of her college roommates, who were basically monsters.
  • Jules calls Ash at Yale and asks her to come and rescue her from the state university.
  • Ash tells her Yale is bad, too (and apparently Ash smokes). She agrees to drive up to see Jules, though she says "we," because she and Ethan are inseparable.
  • Ethan and Ash recommend that Jules avoid her roommates at all costs and seek out smart people.
  • Jules takes their advice and that's how she meets Isadora in a psych class (ah—so that's why we're getting this story).
  • Back again to the dinner party. Getting a little dizzy from all this jumping around?
  • Dennis asks what Isadora was like in college and Jules tries not to mention how she likes her a lot less now—but when she Dennis what Isadora is like as a neighbor, he says she's scary.
  • Dennis leaves the party first because he has to get up early for a football game.
  • Isadora rudely talks about him right after he leaves and tells everyone he's a depressive; Jules learns that Dennis lived briefly at the psychiatric hospital near Spirit-in-the-Woods.
  • Then Isadora brings out a joint and they all smoke pot, which Jules no longer likes.
  • Jules runs into Dennis on her way out of the apartment and they exchange small talk until he invites Jules over and she says no, even though she wants to say yes.
  • Jump forward two months to Jules and Dennis meeting on the street.
  • Dennis walks with her to Copies Plus to get a play, um, copied, and Isadora and Robert are there working.
  • Jules asks about Robert's colleague with cancer, and they find out he died; Robert breaks down in the store and Dennis awkwardly hugs him.
  • Jules and Dennis run out of the store and away from the death and sadness.
  • Somehow Jules and Dennis collectively know they are now going to head back to his place and have sex.
  • In Dennis's apartment, he and Jules strip down and climb the ladder to his loft bed.
  • The bed is too close to the ceiling to sit up straight, so they have way more intimacy than Jules is comfortable with.
  • They have sex, and Jules notices that Dennis is vulnerable and strong at the same time; afterward, they drink milk in bed and talk about their lives.
  • Dennis reveals his family doesn't like each other and he worries that Jules will think he's a jerk.
  • Jules describes him (in her head, hopefully not out loud) as a reliable man with "no obvious exceptional talents" (4.139)… Ah, young love.
  • There's a Freudian moment where Jules associates Dennis with memories of her dad pre-cancer.
  • Dennis tells Jules about his mental breakdown, hoping she won't get scared off.
  • A day later, Jules tells Ash she slept with someone, when she does, Jules finds that she likes talking about doing it as much as actually doing it.
  • Jules imagines a strange couples' dinner scenario where Dennis is uncultured, while we find ourselves wondering if this will be a problem later.
  • Then there's a loving description of that same thing where Dennis is pitched as "not arty," but enjoying learning and living.
  • Still on the phone call, Ash asks Jules if it's serious; she thinks it is.
  • Ash recommends Jules tell Dennis that she already knew about his nervous breakdown from Isadora.
  • This strikes Jules as hypocritical, though, so now we know that there's some horrible secret Ash has from Ethan.
  • The next time she sees Dennis (at the zoo—yay), Jules admits that she knew about his depression, and Dennis is okay with this bit of news.
  • We learn that Dennis has a family history of untreated depression and his family thinks he'd have been fine if he'd never gone off to college.
  • After the zoo, they go back to Jules's apartment to have dinner and Dennis lays out the dinner he brought over.
  • Jules tells him she doesn't really cook, and there's an unspoken agreement that he'll do the cooking for them as a couple.
  • Dennis explains his food restrictions with the medication he's on, and most of it is fancy food. We say bummer to that—we love fancy food. And pie.
  • Jules realizes she wants to try cooking for Dennis, and that caring for each other often involves food.
  • But then Dennis gets super serious for a minute and tells her that some foods could actually kill him.

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