Study Guide

Angels at the Ritz

by William Trevor Cox

Angels at the Ritz Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Angels at the Ritz” is set in the outer suburbs of London in the 1970’s. Gavin and Polly Dillard are about to attend a spouse-swapping party. Although spouse swapping has been practiced in the suburb since the 1950’s, the Dillards have never participated in it before now. They usually simply leave before the game begins at about one o’clock in the morning. This occasion, however, proves to be a little different.

The party the Dillards have been invited to is hosted by their oldest and closest friends, Malcolm and Sue Ryder. The Ryders have never participated in the spouse-swapping game, in which partners are chosen at random, and Polly wonders why they are starting now.

On the night of the party, the Dillards leave their two young children with a baby-sitter. As they set out, it is eight-thirty on a rainy November night, and they decide in advance not to stay long at the party. When they arrive, about sixty well-dressed people are in the spacious house, standing around in groups as tape-recorded music plays. The Dillards know most of the guests. Food is served and wine flows. Then dancing begins.

Polly dances with a man whose name she does not know, while Gavin drinks and chats with Jack and Sylvia Meacock and a woman in an orange trouser suit. Sue joins them and soon takes hold of Gavin’s hand, which makes Gavin feel uneasy. He reminds himself that he is in love with his wife and could not bear to hurt her. The thought of another man making love to his wife or of himself being expected to make love to another woman fills him with distaste. Meanwhile, Malcolm is attempting to seduce Polly. Taking her into his den with the excuse that he is fetching brandy, he...

(The entire section is 700 words.)