Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Point Counter Point, Huxley’s greatest novelistic success except for Brave New World, is a complex work involving a multitude of characters who represent various extremes of imbalance in earthly life, imbalances that detract from naturalness and harmony. As such, these characters are the most inclusive presentation of Huxley’s ideas about erroneous human values and actions and about the complex social, political, economic, and psychological causes of such actions and values.
The novel unfolds in a very diffuse way. The introductory section is structured around a party given by Lord Edward Tantamount and his wife, which is attended by a multitude of the “rich and famous,” including nearly all of the characters whose lives are alternately focused upon in the rest of the novel. At the party, the central conflict is also foreshadowed, that between the socialist Illidge, Lord Tantamount’s scientific assistant, and the ultraconservative, capitalistically privileged leader of a reactionary political group, Everard Webley. That plotline then develops with Spandrell’s very Freudian and psychologically violent perverseness contributing to the radical violence implicit within Illidge’s perspective. (Spandrell has been too psychologically attached to his mother, and her remarriage devastates him, turning him into a pathological being, the villain of the novel.) At Spandrell’s urging, he and Illidge eventually perform the central action of the novel, the murder of Webley. That murder leads to the novel’s climactic moment, the somewhat tragically heroic decision by...
(The entire section is 654 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Walter Bidlake has been living with a married woman named Marjorie Carling for a year and a half, and he is growing tired of her. He feels tied to her by a moral obligation but oppressed by her attempts to possess him; she has rejected his proposal that they live together as close friends but leading independent lives. In any case, it is too late for that now, because Marjorie is pregnant. Her jealousy toward his latest infatuation, Lucy Tantamount, pricks Walter’s conscience, and he is angry with himself for making Marjorie unhappy by going to a party at Tantamount House without her.
Elinor and Philip Quarles travel abroad, leaving little Philip behind under the care of a governess and his grandmother, Mrs. Bidlake. Philip is a novelist, and his life consists of jotting down in his notebook incidents and thoughts that might make material for his next novel. His mind is turned inward, introspective, and his self-centered interests give him little time for emotional experience. Elinor wishes that he would love her as much as she loves him, but she resigns herself to the unhappy dilemma of being loved as much as Philip could possibly love any woman.
Denis Burlap, editor of The Literary World, flatters himself with the just conceit that although his magazine is not a financial success, it at least contributes to the intellectual life of his time. Walter, one of his chief contributors, asks for more pay; Burlap hedges until Walter feels ashamed of his demands. Burlap is attracted to Beatrice Gilray, a pathetic figure who has feared the very touch of a man ever since she had been attacked by her uncle while riding in a taxicab. Burlap hopes eventually to seduce Beatrice. Meanwhile, they are living together. Also part of this social set is Spandrell, an indolent son of a doting mother who supports him, and Everard Webley, a friend of Elinor and the leader of a conservative militaristic group called the British Freemen.
Philip’s father, Sidney Quarles, pretends that he is writing a long history, but he has not progressed much beyond the purchase of office equipment. His wife, Rachel, assumes the burden of managing their affairs and patiently endures Sidney’s whims and mild flirtations. Now it is apparently someone in London, for Sidney makes frequent trips to the British Museum to gather material for his...
(The entire section is 961 words.)