Summary (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
Maurice Bendrix, the narrator of The End of the Affair, says that his account is “a record of hate far more than of love.” He claims to hate Henry Miles, his wife, Sarah, and a God in whom he does not believe. His narrative begins in January, 1946, when he encounters Henry crossing the street on a dark and rainy night that might correspond to the dark night of the soul. Worried about his wife, Henry asks Bendrix to come home with him; he confides that he fears Sarah is having an affair. Henry is tempted to hire a private investigator, and when he balks at doing so, Bendrix offers to do it for him. In fact, Bendrix and Sarah had been lovers for five years, from 1939 to 1944, when she abruptly and without giving reasons broke off the affair. Suspecting that she is seeing some other lover, both men are jealous, Bendrix intensely so. While he is visiting Henry, Sarah comes in drenched to her skin. None of them realizes it, but she has literally caught her death of cold.
Obsessed, Bendrix does in fact hire a detective, Alfred Parkis, who, with his son, begins a surveillance. After several reports to Bendrix about Sarah’s repeated meetings with a man named Richard Smythe, Parkis manages to steal Sarah’s journal. Reading it, Bendrix learns the reason for the end of their affair.
The affair began when Bendrix, a novelist, was doing research on a civil servant much like Henry Miles. In the course of using Sarah as a source, Bendrix casually seduced her, only for the two of them to find themselves overwhelmingly in love. Henry had been a devoted but dull husband with such a minimal sex drive that for years he and Sarah had slept apart. A sensual and frustrated woman, Sarah had a few brief affairs before the one with Bendrix, but they meant nothing to her except momentary gratification. Bendrix, however, she loves unreservedly, both physically and spiritually. Unable to believe in the depth of her love, jealous of her former lovers and imagining subsequent ones, Bendrix fears that the affair will end and so attempts to hasten it to that end by being bitter and quarrelsome. Though hurt, Sarah remains utterly committed to him. “Love doesn’t end,” she tells him. One day in 1944, after they have made love in his apartment, an air raid begins; Bendrix goes downstairs to see if everything is all right, and a V-1 bomb explodes in front of the house. When...
(The entire section is 969 words.)
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