Essential Passage 1: Book I, Chapter 1
I had been warned against the dangers of these rooms by my cousin Jasper, who alone, when I first came up, thought me a suitable subject for detailed guidance. My father offered me none. Then, as always, he eschewed serious conversation with me. It was not until I was within a fortnight of going up that he mentioned the subject at all; then he said, shyly and rather slyly: “I’ve been talking about you. I met your future Warden at the Athenaeum. I wanted to talk about Etruscan notions of immortality; he wanted to talk about extension lectures for the working-class; so we compromised and talked about you. I asked him what your allowance should be. He said, ‘Three hundred a year; on no account give him more; that’s all most men have.’ I thought that a deplorable answer. I had more than most men when I was up, and my recollection is that nowhere else in the world and at no other time, do a few hundred pounds, one way or the other, make so much difference to one’s importance and popularity. I toyed with the idea of giving you six hundred,” said my father, snuffling a little, as he did when he was amused, “but I reflected that, should the Warden come to hear of it, it might sound deliberately impolite. So I shall give you five hundred and fifty.”
I thanked him.
Charles, as a student at Oxford University, is thrown in among a different class of people from that which he has encountered previously. Well-to-do, but not socially elite, Charles’ family remained on the outskirts of society. Since his wife’s death, Mr. Ryder has developed an uncomfortable relationship with his son. Charles has unwisely chosen rooms on the ground floor, with windows opening up on the front quadrangle. Charles’ cousin Jaspar (of the same personality as Charles’ father) warns him how inappropriate these rooms will be, considering that they are within easy access to any passersby. Not in the sense of theft, however, but in the sense of sociability. Jaspar fears that Charles’ rooms will become a way-station for all the other students who are not as committed to social proprieties and study as Jaspar is and thinks Charles should be. Charles’ father, however, is indifferent to anything that Charles does. He explains to Charles about his allowance, being more of a desire to show someone else that Mr. Ryder is better than he, rather than a concern for Charles’ personal welfare.
Essential Passage 2: Book I, Chapter 6
I was unmoved; there was no part of me remotely touched by her distress. It was as I had often imagined being expelled from school. I almost expected to hear her say: “I have already written to inform your unhappy father.” But as I drove away and turned back in the car to take what promised to be my last view of the house, I felt that I was leaving part of myself behind, and that wherever I went afterwards I should feel the lack of it, and search for it hopelessly, as ghosts are said to do, frequenting the spots where they buried material treasures without which they cannot pay their way to the nether world.
“I shall never go back,” I said to myself.
A door shut, the low door in the wall I had sought and found in Oxford; open it now and I should find no enchanted garden.
I had come to the surface, into the light of common day and the fresh sea-air, after long captivity in the sunless coral palaces and waving forests of the ocean bed.
I had left behind me—what? Youth? Adolescence? Romance? The conjuring stuff of these things, “the Young Magician’s Compendium,” that neat cabinet where the ebony want had its place beside the delusive billiard balls, the penny that folded double and the feather flowers that could be drawn into a hollow candle.
“I have left behind illusion,” I said to myself. “Henceforth I live in a world of three dimensions—with the aid of my five senses.”
I have since learned that there is no such world; but then, as the car turned out of sight of the house, I thought it took no finding, but lay...
(The entire section is 1740 words.)