The main theme in this novel is Monica Gall's development as a performing artist. In Salterton, Monica has not known many people in the arts. Her main influence has been her Aunt Ellen, organist at a small Baptist church for over twenty-five years. Aunt Ellen and Monica listen to the Saturday afternoon broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera, look at pictures of the great singers of the turn of the century in The Victor Book of the Opera, and read sentimental fiction like Jessie Fothergill's The First Violin, which is about a young woman with a beautiful voice whose singing teacher is "daemonic" and whose lover (a violinist in an orchestra) turns out to be a nobleman in the end. When Monica receives the scholarship, Aunt Ellen tells her to become "a great artist," someone who is always "simple and fine" and loves everything that is "sweet in life," This definition reflects Aunt Ellen's life, for Aunt Ellen is simple, sweet, and fine, but it has little to do with being an artist. It is soon destroyed by Sir Benedict Domdaniel, the conductor who becomes Monica's mentor in London. Monica tells Domdaniel that she wants to be an artist because "it makes you a fine person and you can help other people" by enriching their lives and making them better. Domdaniel scoffs at this notion of refinement. He tells her that being refined means being "predictable, stable, controlled, always choosing the smallest cake on the plate, never breaking wind audibly, being a good...
(The entire section is 1306 words.)
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