The odd and seemingly aberrant direction in the development of Aaron Sisson is at the center of this work; other characters are significant largely to the extent that their paths meet or diverge from his. A parting of the ways takes place in his life when he is thirty-three: The origins of this transformation are shown only indirectly, if at all. The antimony of settled domestic life as a colliers’ secretary and the pursuit of his musical practice in London and Italy is deepened by the open breach brought about by desertion of his wife and his later infidelities. Yet for all of his resolution to follow the imperatives of his being where art and love are concerned, he seems curiously indecisive. Indeed, when he is taken ill in London, Lilly rubs him down with oil, like a child; there are hints at times of a kind of regression. It requires Lilly’s prodding for him to go on to Italy. He seems susceptible to inner forces that impel him onward, oblivious to the passage of familiar time (Christmas, springtime, and much of the London opera season pass by unnoticed) but toward the end, he has pangs of remorse for leaving his wife, and he must look to Lilly once more when considering whether to continue as he has done in Italy.
The women in his life appear only at intervals. From what is known of her, Lottie Sisson was once beautiful but has become plain and practical, the more so from Aaron’s long familiarity with her. It would appear that she did little to precipitate a crisis in their married life; nor do her reactions to his...
(The entire section is 632 words.)