The Rhythm Section
Mark Burnell
Contributed by Elene Blackwelder
Chapter 4

Stephanie fears West’s retaliation after she attacked Grant, one of his clients. Because West knows all of her acquaintances, she calls Proctor, a stranger, to intervene on her behalf. She waits for him in a restaurant near the train station as she contemplates about what triggered her to attack Grant. Stephanie admits that the new information about the deaths of her family members had made her despise her occupation even more. She wondered what her parents and siblings would say about her miserable lifestyle choices. When Proctor gets to the train station, she hesitantly gets into his car. They head to his house where she warns him repeatedly about attempting to sleep with her. Proctor is chivalric and accommodating as he allows her to sleep on his couch; despite his kindness, Stephanie still mistrusts him. When she wakes up in the morning, she steals money from his wallet and attempts to run away. As she flees, she realizes that he had bolted the door, so she falls down and curls up on the floor waiting for him to beat her just as West did whenever she made him angry. However, Proctor assures her that he is not going to do such a thing. Once she calmed down, he explains to her how an MI5 operative had told him that the plane crash was actually a terror attack, potentially committed by an Islamic suspect that is currently being monitored in London.


After Stephanie’s epiphany of her family’s deaths, she decides to leave her occupation and her life behind. She says “I saw myself on all fours, Grant drunkenly ploughing into me from behind, my family watching, their total disappointment evident through their hideous wounds” (Burnell, 33). This portrays to the audience that Proctor’s conspiracy theory had awakened the ghosts of her past, as she has suddenly become ashamed of what her family would think of her if they were to find out about her occupation. The attack on Grant was a result of her anger towards her overall situation, along with the fear that West will never allow her to leave. Proctor is the only person that can intervene for her and she goes to him despite her newfound fear and mistrust for him. This is portrayed by the narrator when he describes how she curls up on the floor, afraid that Proctor will attack her for attempting to flee. When the narrator says “Stephanie’s reactions were automatic, a by-product of experience”, he implies that the beatings she received from West had been traumatic (Burnell, 35). The fact that she expected Proctor to be equally violent as West shows that she had normalized men’s violence towards her.

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