(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Jim Calder made his living by writing fiction for popular magazines. For this reason, the contradiction between the actual life of his relatives at Wickford Point and the fiction he was required to write was extremely obvious. His relatives, the Brills, were a group of New Englanders who had little money but who were disinclined to make a living. Being himself close to the Brills, he had attempted to escape from them and the enervating atmosphere of Wickford Point. He was only a second cousin to the Brill children, but his continual association with them in his early life produced bonds that were exceedingly hard to break. No matter how many times he left Wickford Point, he always returned. No matter how many times he returned, he always planned to get away again as soon as possible.

Jim attended Harvard and there met Joe Stowe. Harry Brill also attended Harvard, where he made sure that he knew the right people. Throughout his life, Harry was concerned with meeting the right people, but he never did make the right connections. Jim and Joe were fortunate in the fact that they became fast friends and were never elected to the right campus clubs. This polite ostracism served only to strengthen their friendship and to bring with it the assurance that they at least would be more successful than many of their snobbish classmates in their dealings with people.

When World War I arrived and America became involved, Joe and Jim were among the first to go into service, and they were shipped overseas as first lieutenants before they had completed their officers’ training. After the war, they went to China and served with the forces of General Feng. Some years later, Jim returned to America to find a new way of life; Joe went to Italy. Both decided upon writing as a career.

When Jim returned to Wickford Point, he found the Brills just the same and as inconsequential as when he had left. Cousin Clothilde was still unable to manage finances satisfactorily. When she received her check on the first of the month, her children all raced to get their share of the cash, the first one arriving getting the greater share. Cousin Clothilde was always broke within a few hours after receiving her money.

Bella had grown into quite a beautiful young woman during Jim’s absence from America, and at the moment of his return, she was involved in a rather serious affair with a nice young man named Avery Gifford. Jim, who had always been Bella’s confidant, continued in this role when Bella sought advice from him. Since she was not sure that she loved Avery, it was decided...

(The entire section is 1059 words.)