Sammy Mountjoy, the narrator and protagonist, a well-known artist who has risen from abject poverty through his talents. In the novel, he is not concerned about his rise to fame, instead recounting his moral and spiritual development. He finds such development not in the gradually unfolding events of his life but in certain specific moments, recounted as memories. The most significant of such moments is when he lost his innocence and thus the freedom of choice; further, he took on guilt and experienced the bondage of the will. He feels his life is therefore divided into a before and an after. The before consists of his school life. The after begins at his high school graduation, which therefore becomes a graduation into slavery, a slavery that lasts up to his experience of despair in a cell of a prisoner-of-war camp. He owns this part of his life and feels guilt for it, even though he recognizes that he could have lived no other way. This prison experience has symbolically broken the prison of his own self-centeredness, so he can perceive the glory of life. This is where he is living as he writes the book. He realizes that others, like Beatrice, are trapped as a result of his past, and he must continue to bear responsibility.
Beatrice Ifor, the daughter of respectable shopkeepers. She attends Sammy’s high (grammar) school and then trains to be a teacher near Sammy’s art college in...
(The entire section is 557 words.)