Within the Gates Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

It was spring within the gates of a London park where a war memorial stood in strong contrast to the surrounding spring flowers. A group of young people, costumed like the spring vegetation, sang and danced to a poem newly written by The Dreamer. His song expressed hope for the world through the earth mother’s renewal of old promises. Contrasted with this lively group were The Down-and-Outs, those bowed by the master classes and the prejudices they spawn.

The Dreamer, who sensed the independent spirit disguised by her conventional street-walker’s appearance, followed The Young Woman, only to be rejected by her. His friend The Atheist urged the poet to leave her adrift. As the girl’s foster father, he explained to the interested young man that she had a fine mind which forever darted first to the left, then to the right. A young divinity student named Gilbert had fathered and forgotten her. Her housemaid mother, turned away from the college gate, had placed her child in a church orphanage, where the nuns treated her as a child of sin and impressed fancifully on her mind the hell for which she was probably destined. The Atheist, smitten with the good looks and fierce spirit of the mother, took them both in, only to be deserted when the daughter became a prostitute and the mother a drunkard. Both were beset by their own vision of sin and full of hate for each other.

Since the godless man gave the girl no poetry but only intellectual exercises, The Dreamer suggested that The Atheist had taken her from one darkness into another. He begged the foster father to take her home again while there still was loveliness in her, but The Atheist was too fond of his independent life of rabble-rousing through speechifying and pamphleteering.

Within the park appeared vested interests represented by nursemaids and their aristocratic charges, a policewoman, The Bishop and his sister, chair attendants, a gardener, a Salvation Army officer, evangelists, and politicians in various types of hats which corresponded to their points of view. The Dreamer moved among them all and urged them to throw off their worldly bonds; for them he wrote the Song of the Down-and-Outs, a lament for those who whine through life with dread and who are sick with apprehension, the victims of dead traditions.

The Young Woman, in spite of a heart condition, ran after her foster father. Rebuffed, she still persisted in disclosing her dreams of hell and heaven. She turned next to a young Salvation Army officer who offered her the minimum security of the body, though he was interested in her for other reasons of the flesh. The Gardener, in love with physical love and unresponsive to her claim for affectionate...

(The entire section is 1112 words.)