The Conscience of the Rich Analysis

C. P. Snow

Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*London. Great Britain’s capital and leading city. On his arrival in London, the narrator, young provincial lawyer Lewis Eliot, is fascinated by the metropolis, whose life takes on a glamour of its own, and whose restaurants, theaters, and clubs are “invested with a warm, romantic haze.” The London summer pleasures of his wealthy friend Charles March include such typical upper-class amusements as the ballet, Wimbledon, coming-out dances, and parties in the prestigious neighborhoods of Grosvenor Square, Knightsbridge, and the Park. With the Marches, Eliot visits the splendid home of the Holfords, with its beautiful garden and extravagant display of fireworks, the fashionable house of Herbert March, and, above all, Leonard March’s Bryanston Square residence, all of which allow him to observe closely the exotic milieu of the rich. Lewis himself rents two small rooms at the top of a lodging-house on Conway Street, near Tottenham Court Road.

As both Lewis and Charles study law, they frequent the legal London of chambers and courts. Charles’s decision to abandon his career in law for the less prestigious one in medicine provokes one of the central conflicts of the novel.

Bryanston Square

Bryanston Square. London home of the patriarch Leonard March (Mr. L.) and his two children, Katherine and Charles. Bryanston Square is a stronghold of the traditional upper-class Anglo-Jewish way of life, with its lavish parties and elegant Friday dinners designed to consolidate the family. Most social events take place in the large, dazzlingly bright drawing room and even larger dining room, which contains family portraits dating back to 1730....

(The entire section is 696 words.)

The Conscience of the Rich Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

De la Mothe, John. C. P. Snow and the Struggle of Modernity. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992. Asserts the writer’s primary concern is the need for “mediation between the private and the public spheres.” A demanding study in intellectual history, but worth the effort. Photographs and bibliography.

Halperin, John. C. P. Snow: An Oral Biography. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1983. A series of interviews conducted during the last two years of Snow’s life. Not indexed, but contains frequent references to The Conscience of the Rich and related matters. A brief conversation with Lady Snow (Pamela Hansford Johnson) is recorded in an appendix. Some photographs.

Karl, Frederick F. C. P. Snow: The Politics of Conscience. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1963. The chapter on The Conscience of the Rich concentrates primarily on three characters. Charles and Lewis are discussed as “Snow’s alternatives to the typical existential hero,” and Leonard as a reactionary who, although charming, is essentially a fool. Interesting but oversimplified. Includes a fictional chronology based on the first eight books of the “Strangers and Brothers” series.

Ramanathan, Suguna. The Novels of C. P. Snow: A Critical Introduction. London: Macmillan, 1978. Short but insightful. Although references to The Conscience of the Rich are scattered, provides a good overview of Snow’s novels and useful comments about his originality. Bibliography.

Shusterman, David. C. P. Snow. Rev. ed. Boston: Twayne, 1991. A good starting point for the study of Snow. Three chapters are devoted to the “Strangers and Brothers” series. Biographical information, including a chronology, extensive notes and references, and a select bibliography. Secondary sources are annotated.