Augie and Thea settle in the town of Acatla, in a house owned by her family. Augie begins to wonder just why he is in Mexico. Thea has said earning money was the goal, but training an eagle to catch lizards seems to be a strange way of doing it. He also finds himself feeling sympathy for the lizards brought in by Jacinto, the young son of the housekeeper. Thea is somewhat annoyed at this display of compassion and becomes enraged when Caligula is bitten by a lizard and seems to lose all interest in hunting. Augie is struck that, ‘‘while she was unpleasantly stirred against Caligula I felt a little condemned with him.’’ Thea declares Caligula to be ‘‘chicken’’ and abandons the eagle for a new pastime: developing photographs.
Eventually, Thea agrees to give Caligula another chance. She and Augie ride into the mountains where iguanas live, but Augie’s burro loses its footing and falls down the mountain, kicking Augie in the head. Thea shoots the injured burro dead. As Augie recuperates, Thea sends Caligula to a zoo in Indiana. Weeks pass and Thea becomes bored. Augie begins to gamble with the little colony of Americans, and Thea hunts for poisonous snakes. Augie realizes that he has ‘‘no more stretch’’ for Thea; he can’t get excited about her snake-catching. Augie suggests they marry and Thea simply shakes her head.
Augie increasingly spends his time in the company of the town’s bohemian colony of writers, artists, and other characters, including a woman named Stella, whom Augie feels immediately drawn to. One day, he catches sight of the exiled Russian Communist leader Leon Trotsky outside the village church. Augie is stunned to realize that one of the bodyguards is his old friend Sylvester. Their conversation is superficial, but the encounter reminds Augie of the world he’d left behind. Soon after, Stella’s jealous boyfriend, Oliver, discovers American lawmen are looking for him, and Stella, who is frightened of Oliver, turns to Augie for help. Meanwhile, Thea asks Augie to drive farther south with her, her only reason being that there are ‘‘interesting animals’’ in the area. Augie agrees but is clearly distracted by Stella’s precarious situation. At a party thrown by Oliver, Stella takes Augie aside, telling him she fears for her safety and begging him to help her flee to Mexico City. She tells Augie that ‘‘you and I are the kind of people other people are always trying to fit into their schemes.’’ Augie realizes she is right and agrees to help her. When Augie tells Thea of his plan she is furious and jealous, even when he invites her to come as well. He leaves with Stella, and on their way through the mountains they spend the night together. When he returns to Thea she accuses him of betraying her and tells him, ‘‘You’re not special. You’re like everybody else.’’
Thea leaves and Augie remains, brooding and filled with guilt. He hears that one of his acquaintances in Mexico is actually an ex-lover of Thea’s and that he, too, has left for the south. Augie follows and confronts Thea. He asks again for them to continue on together. Thea refuses, and Augie returns to Acatla. Sylvester and Frazer convince him to take a job as a companion to Trotsky; Augie agrees, but he fears that he will be ‘‘sucked into another one of those great currents where I can’t be myself,’’ Fortunately, the plan falls through. Augie moves in with an old friend of Trotsky’s, a Yugoslavian named Paslavitch who loves French culture, and the two of them become good friends.
Source Credits: Sara Constantakis, Novels for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Novels, Volume 33, Gale-Cengage Learning, 2010