Andrew Crocker-Harris, a schoolmaster in an English public school. He is a failure both in his teaching of the classics and in his marriage. “The Crock,” as he is dubbed by his pupils, is retiring for health reasons, one year short of qualifying for a pension. He assumes that because there is precedent, he will be granted a pension. With a reputation for giving students grades that are neither more nor less than they deserve, he seems an anachronism in a time when younger masters curry favor with students. Emotionally repressed, he gives no outward sign of his knowledge of his wife’s infidelities, the latest involving Frank Hunter, a popular and younger master. On this, his penultimate day at the private school, he experiences for the first time in many years an emotional release that he describes as the twitchings of a corpse. His pupil, Taplow; his colleague, Hunter; and his replacement, Gilbert serve as catalysts for this release. Confronting his personal and professional failure openly, he breaks down his traditional English “stiff upper lip” and makes hard choices: to leave Millie, to take a position at a crammers’ school, and to follow rather than precede a popular master in speaking at term-end exercises. In making these choices, he begins to rejoin the human community and gain a self-respect that enables him to face his future with a new dignity.
Millie Crocker-Harris, the unfaithful wife of Andrew. Bitter about his professional failure and their marital failure, she has been involved in a desultory affair with Frank Hunter. She expresses her contempt for her husband in a grippingly climactic moment when, in the presence of Hunter, she taunts Andrew with the fact that she had witnessed...
(The entire section is 735 words.)