Herbert Smeeth, the bookkeeper, Lilian Matfield, the secretary, and Harold Turgis, the junior clerk, are the three Twigg & Dersingham employees whom Priestley pictures in sharpest detail within a novel as rich in characterization as any by Charles Dickens. The author follows them as they travel to and from the City from various outlying residential districts. He observes their working day, their breaks for lunch and tea, their evening amusements, their weekend boredom.
Smeeth’s lower-middle-class family, completely dependent upon him, considers his job, the very center of his being, to be more secure than he knows it to be. His gentle warnings go unheeded; his short-lived pay raise is quickly squandered on food and drink to entertain the Mittys, Mrs. Smeeth’s relations, at an ill-timed party that parallels the Dersingham debacle.
Miss Matfield, who is approaching spinsterhood, lives in the respectable Burpenfield Club, a residential club for women from good middle-class homes in the country who are compelled by economic circumstances to live in London as cheaply as possible. Along with all the others there, she hates the club and awaits a Prince Charming to carry her away, not only from the Burpenfield but also from Angel Pavement. She would probably marry anyone who might ask her, even dull Norman Birtley, a friend from the country, who, ill at ease in the bewildering city, cannot muster either the will or the courage to ask for her...
(The entire section is 568 words.)