The Browning Version

by Terence Rattigan

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Compare and contrast the characters of Crocker-Harris and Frank Hunter. 

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In The Browning Version, Crocker-Harris and Frank Hunter have some similarities, but they remain largely different. They are both schoolmasters at an English public school, they both terminate their relationship with Millie owing to her cruelty towards Mr. Andrew, and they both detest the idea of teaching at the crammer's school.

Despite the fact that both Crocker-Harris and Hunter are masters, Crocker-Harris specializes in the classics, whereas Hunter’s specialty is science. In terms of age, Crocker-Harris is older than Hunter and is only one year away from the official retirement age. Unlike Harris, who is disliked by the students for being a strict disciplinarian, the much younger Hunter is liked and easily establishes rapport with the students. They both stand up for the right thing; Hunter confesses to his affair with Millie and tries to make amends. On the other hand, Crocker-Harris reclaims his dignity and respect by insisting to speak after his junior during the commencement ceremony.

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Frank Hunter is self-confident, successful, personable, friendly, yet with enough arrogance about him to engage in an extra-marital affair with the wife of his colleague, Dr. Crocker-Harris. Students find it easy to talk with Hunter and to confide in him, as John Taplow confides in him while waiting for Crocker-Harris. Hunter knows just the right thing to do socially to make other people feel at ease and receptive, as is illustrated by his impromptu instruction on golf swing while Taplow waits for Crocker-Harris.

In contrast, Andrew Crocker-Harris is ill at ease with himself and others and is viewed by himself and others as a failure in his teaching career mostly because, as Taplow puts it, he is unable to pass on his love of Classical literature to his students. While students admire Hunter, they ridicule and tease Crocker-Harris calling him, among other things, "Himmler of the lower fifth."

The most interesting characteristic about Hunter is that, while his attentions to Millie Crocker-Harris were strictly for physical pleasure, he is finally able to see the nobility within the disappointed Crocker-Harris, who even had his pension voted away from him. This insight is expressed in Hunter's advocacy of the genuine nature of Taplow's gift and of his confession to Crocker-Harris of his affair with Millie.

The most interesting characteristic about Crocker-Harris is that, while he has every reason for bitterness, resentment and anger, he remains humble and accepts, with grace and dignity, the sincerity of Taplow's gift and Hunter's proposed visit.

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