(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

After they finish writing their final examinations for the British Bar, Lewis Eliot and Charles March go out together to celebrate. A month later, both of the young men learn that they passed the test, and they begin a year of apprenticeship in London. They see each other often and soon become the closest of friends. Although Lewis often speaks about personal matters as well as his problems with Herbert Getliffe, with whom he is studying, Charles remains secretive for a long time. One day, he invites Lewis to dinner at his father’s London house and mentions that his family is Jewish.

Lewis is dazzled by the March establishment and charmed by both Charles’s vivacious sister, Katherine, and his father, Leonard, a wonderful storyteller. When Katherine balks at attending one of the dances where wealthy Jewish young people are supposed to meet their future mates, Leonard becomes extremely angry. When Charles takes his sister’s side, Leonard turns on him as well.

Charles later tells Lewis that he intends to leave the law, so that he will no longer be trapped in the small society of which his family is a part. Both Leonard and his brother, Sir Philip March, find it hard to believe that this is not just a passing fancy. Leonard threatens action if Charles persists in his plan.

During the summer, Herbert’s brother Francis, a likable, sensible young scientist, is a frequent guest at the March country house, even though, like Lewis, he is a Gentile and therefore presumably not a marital possibility. When Ann Simon, an attractive Jewish girl, comes to visit, she argues with Charles about Herbert. Her antipathy is based on what she was told by Ronald Porson, an unsuccessful lawyer. At dinner, Leonard is shocked to discover that Ann is a political radical, but when he finds that she has good family connections, he is somewhat reassured.

Now desperately in love, Ann and Charles begin meeting secretly in Lewis’s room. Ann urges Charles to become a doctor, like her father, and Charles becomes convinced that it is a good idea. Leonard thinks it is ridiculous and informs Charles that he changed his mind about...

(The entire section is 879 words.)