Happiness is a spouse, enviable children and a job that makes more cake that the Joneses. Some find that even after they check all of those boxes they still are not happy. Having achieved upper middle classdom, John Wilder, rather than become an advertising titan or SuperDad, puts it on cruise control, which affords him plenty of free time to indulge in alcohol and women.
Early in the novel, triggered by either alcohol and/or mental disturbances, Wilder lands in Bellevue’s Mental Ward. That stinks because it’s early in the novel and it is the book’s high water mark. From there on you gradually stop caring about Wilder. Wilder’s alcohol keeps flowing and his paranoia and delusions begin…but so what, he isn’t the genius that breaks out of the conventional to become a Galileo, an Einstein, or Caitlin Jenner. He’s a nut.
Assault on greatness is likely not the point. Yates may be illustrating the other side of the coin. That is, to an outside observer, it doesn’t take much (or perceivably anything) for a guy to just hit the eject button and plummet. We all know that guy. Many of us have put our finger over that button…but just weren’t crazy enough to hit it. In this instance the ejector seat had no parachute and the plane sailed on.