The Rhythm Section
Mark Burnell
Contributed by Elene Blackwelder
Chapter 6
Summary

Stephanie is happy with the transformation that she has made over the two months whilst under the care of Proctor. Her health has greatly improved, especially after she decided to stop binge drinking. However, she admits having relapsed once after calling her brother, Christopher (Stephanie and Christopher are the only ones remaining in their family) — where the conversation with her brother triggers a relapse, in the form of her going out and getting drunk afterwards. All things considered, she is optimistic that the progress she is making will enable her to live a new and better life. However, despite Stephanie’s positive changes, a man in a suit recognizes her as a prostitute while she is at a bar investigating a suspect who may have forged travel documents for the plane’s bomber. When Proctor learns about her discomforting encounter with the man, he suggests that they leave the bar. Once outside, Stephanie insists that he should return to the establishment and spy on their suspect, Bradfield, and that she is okay to head back to Proctor’s house alone.

Analysis

Although, health-wise, Stephanie makes a significant improvement, her old life is presented as a continuous threat to her well-being. For instance, her distant relationship with her brother is emphasized as the trigger to her relapse. When she says “she was being sucked towards the familiar vortex”, she implies that there is no love lost between them (Burnell, 51). From their phone call, it is evident that Christopher was condescending towards her, assuming that she is calling to ask for money. Proctor continues to play a huge role in her positive transformation, as his healthy lifestyle motivates her to quit drugs.

Furthermore, Proctor is both caring and protective of her. During the confrontation in the bar, he abandons his investigation of the suspected forger, Bradfield, to come to Stephanie’s aid, proving that he deeply cares for her. Stephanie even fantasizes about having sex with him. Despite the sexual tension between the two, Stephanie remarks that she has “been permanently numbed to its pleasure” (Burnell, 49). This portrays her fear that their supportive relationship will be ruined if she becomes romantically involved with him. 

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