The Death of the Heart Additional Summary

Elizabeth Bowen


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Anna Quayne’s pique demands an outlet—she can no longer contain it all within herself; therefore, while St. Quentin Miller shivers with cold, she marches him around the frozen park, delivering herself of her discontent. The trouble, of course, started with Portia, for the Quayne household was not the same after the arrival of Tom’s sixteen-year-old half sister. Not that Portia is all to blame; the business began with a deathbed wish. Who could have expected dying old Mr. Quayne to ask Tom to take a half sister he hardly knew, keep her for at least a year, and give her a graceful start in life? As she explains to St. Quentin, Anna herself hardly knows how to cope with the arrangement, although she tries to accept it with outward tranquillity. Now she stumbled across the girl’s diary, glimpsed her own name, and was tempted to read. It is obvious that Portia is less than happy and that she is scanning the atmosphere of her brother’s house with an unflattering eye.

While Anna is thus unburdening herself, the subject of her discussion returns home quietly from Miss Paullie’s lessons. She is vaguely disturbed to learn from Matchett, the housekeeper, that Anna commented upon the clutter in Portia’s bedroom. Later, she shares tea with Anna and St. Quentin when they come in, tingling with cold; but the atmosphere seems a bit stiff, and Portia readily agrees with Anna’s suggestion that she join her brother in his study. Portia feels more at ease with Tom, even though he clearly finds conversation with her awkward.

By now, Portia knows that there is no one in whom she can readily confide. At 2 Windsor Terrace, Matchett offers a certain possessive friendship; at school, only the inquisitive Lilian takes notice of her. Major Brutt is better than either of these; in her presence, his eyes show a fatherly gleam, and she likes the picture puzzle he sent. Anna tolerates the Major—he is her only link with an old friend, Pidgeon—but Major Brutt seldom ventures to call, and Portia sees him mostly in the company of others.

Another of Anna’s friends whom Portia sometimes sees is Eddie. Eddie, however, is seemingly beyond the range of Portia’s clumsy probing for companionship. He is twenty-three years of age and brightly self-assured. Anna finds it amusing to have him around, although she often rebukes his conceit and presumption; she goes so far as to find him a job with Quayne and Merrett. One day, Portia hands Eddie his hat as he takes leave of Anna; the next day he writes to her. Before long, they are meeting regularly and secretly.

Having no wish to alienate Anna, Eddie cautions Portia not to mention him in her diary, but he revels in Portia’s uncritical adoration. They go to the zoo, to tea, and ultimately to his apartment. Matchett, who finds Eddie’s letter under Portia’s pillow, soon becomes coldly jealous of his...

(The entire section is 1177 words.)


(Novels for Students)

Part One: The World
In the opening of The Death of the Heart, Anna and her good friend St. Quentin walk through the park...

(The entire section is 1816 words.)