Simon and Charlotte marry, and Simon hatches a plan for Augie to marry Lucy Magnus, Charlotte’s cousin. The Magnuses, however, are not enthusiastic about Augie, largely because of his seeming lack of ambition and direction. He continues to work hard as Simon’s assistant at the coal yard, and business for the ruthless Simon rapidly improves. Mimi Villars tells Augie she is pregnant by Frazer, and Augie drives her to get an illegal and dangerous abortion. She bleeds badly afterward and Augie fears for her health. At the abortionist’s, Augie runs into Kelly Weintraub, a cousin of the Magnuses who had lived in Augie’s old neighborhood. Kelly spreads the rumor that Mimi is Augie’s girlfriend, and the Magnuses break off his relationship with Lucy. Augie returns to reading his books and takes a job with the Works Progress Administration, one of the New Deal programs. He walks through the slums of Chicago, working on a housing survey. Through Mimi he meets a man named Grammick who makes him a union organizer for the Congress of Industrial Organizations, or CIO. He is struck by how many people want to sign up. One new member is a Greek chambermaid named Sophie Geratis with whom Augie begins a love affair. Although Augie feels tenderly toward Sophie, he is drawn away from her by the dramatic return of Thea Fenchel.
In typical fashion Augie throws himself headfirst into his relationship with Thea, and he is prepared to do whatever she asks. She tells him she is on her way to Mexico to get a divorce from her husband, and she urges Augie to accompany her. Thea also has an idea to make money on their trip; namely, to train an eagle to catch lizards. Augie takes this odd news in stride, deciding, ‘‘I could not find myself in love without it should have some peculiarity.’’ Although Thea’s behavior seems somewhat erratic, and despite the advice of such friends as Mimi, he decides to accompany her to Mexico. Together they drive south, stopping near the Texas border to buy an eagle from a man Augie believes to be a crook. Still, he is impressed with how natural Thea is with the eagle. In Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, Augie names the bird Caligula, after the sound of the Spanish world for ‘‘eagle.’’ In Mexico, Thea begins training Caligula to fly after a piece of meat on a fishing lure. Augie is afraid of the bird but impressed by Thea’s command of it. Augie assumes he and Thea will marry when her divorce is finalized.
Source Credits: Sara Constantakis, Novels for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Novels, Volume 33, Gale-Cengage Learning, 2010