Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The nameless narrator encounters two former acquaintances, Gilbert Long and Grace Brissenden, both of whom are also going to the party at Newmarch, and both of whom appear considerably changed to the narrator. Long, who previously struck the narrator as a handsome clod, seems suddenly to have become clever, and Mrs. Brissenden, who is supposedly at least forty, seems to have grown younger or at least not to have aged. In conversation with Mrs. Briss, as she is called, the narrator receives the idea for what is to become his theory, that Long’s intellectual improvement is the result of his having entered into a relationship with a clever woman, identified by Mrs. Briss as Lady John, another guest at Newmarch. Lady John is coming on a later train with Guy Brissenden, her screen, as that gentleman’s wife intimates, for her affair with Long.
Arriving at the party, the narrator fails, just as he initially failed to recognize Mrs. Briss, to recognize Guy, who, although only in his late twenties, looks older now than his wife. Guy appears, in fact, “quite sixty.” This discovery completes the narrator’s theory that as one party to a relationship gains, either physically or intellectually, the other loses, is drained by the “sacrificer” until quite depleted. The narrator communicates this theory to Ford Obert, who assumes Mrs. Briss to be considerably younger than her husband.
The narrator attempts to corroborate his theory. His discovery...
(The entire section is 1311 words.)
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