Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
In the suburb of Battle Hill, Peter Stanhope is involved in the production of his verse drama. He is an eminent poet and inhabitant of the Manor House, which belonged to his family before the housing estate was built. Under the leadership of the capable Mrs. Parry, a group of his neighbors has the privilege of performing his new play in his garden, but only one of them, Pauline Anstruther, even remotely grasps the spiritual significance of his pastoral fantasy. Pauline’s sensibility is so quickened by the nuances of his verse that she confides to him the terror that haunted her for years: the recurrent appearance of her doppelgänger.
Stanhope explains to her the principle of substitution: One person, through love, can assume the burden of another so that the sufferer is relieved. When Pauline becomes willing to accept his offer to bear her burden, she discovers that she is no longer tortured by her own problem. Instead, she is given the opportunity to bear someone else’s burden of fear. Her growth in grace influences everything around her.
As the rehearsals for the play proceed, Pauline’s role as leader of the chorus is paralleled by her role in the supernatural drama that is taking place concurrently in Battle Hill. The spiritual energy released through the play sets in motion a series of events that transcends ordinary time, affecting a number of other inhabitants of the suburb. The housing estate, built in the 1920’s, took its name...
(The entire section is 1431 words.)
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