Johnnie is a thirty-year-old author who is disappointed over the reception of his writing. Critics have called his work immature and he, in turn, complains of the power they have over his reputation. Why should these “cultural aunts and uncles” be in a position to define literature? Johnnie is outraged that people whose intellects he cannot respect have so much say over the course of his career, yet he realizes that it is in the nature of things that the individual’s self is defined by others.
Unaccountably, Johnnie suddenly finds that his life is no longer his own. He is taken in hand by Professor Pimko, a distinguished scholar who puts Johnnie back in school. Strangely enough, no one seems to notice that Johnnie is much older than his fellow pupils. Indeed, they welcome him as though he fit right in. At school, the tyranny of the teacher’s opinions is even worse than the literary critics Johnnie attacked earlier in the novel. Pupils are expected to cherish great writers, such as the nineteenth century Romantic poet Juliusz Slowacki, just because the teacher says that they are great. What is at stake is not really the greatness of the literature which the students study but rather the opinions of the teacher.
The same is true for the society of students. The students are led by the boy who can establish himself as an authority and not necessarily by the one who has the better argument. Mientus and Siphon fight over whether the...
(The entire section is 594 words.)