Charles Lumley is averse to violence, asking only to be left alone while he finds a way of life in which he will not feel trapped. His anger can be triggered, however, generally with comic results. Sometimes Lumley’s response is physical, as when he drenches the pushy relatives of his first girlfriend with dishwater. More often, it is verbal, but once out of control, Lumley goes so far beyond the tolerated limits of British upper-class nastiness that his targets are driven to violence, as when the infuriated medical students throw him out the door.
Lumley’s self-control also fails when he meets an appealing woman. Perhaps only the chance absence of his first girlfriend saves him from a trap. Alone with her detestable relatives, he sees her likeness to them and flees the relationship without seeing her. Later he almost settles down with a pleasant young woman from the hospital where they both work. Only his memory of Veronica and the delayed recognition that he does have intellectual needs prevent him from settling for a dull working-class existence. He does not escape Veronica “Roderick,” however, who later calls herself “Moll Flanders.” Even after he is forced to admit that her relationship with her uncle is as phony as her name, even though he realizes that a commitment to her will undoubtedly plunge him into new difficulties, Lumley chooses love and the beautiful Veronica.
If Lumley is irrational in his perceptions of women, he...
(The entire section is 419 words.)