At midday dinner, all the Cornelius family members are introduced, their personalities quickly sketched, and their relations with one another indicated. Told entirely from the point of view of the professor, the story begins as his two older children, Ingrid and Bert, remind him that they are giving a party that evening. Ingrid assures her father that he will not be disturbed. Somewhat disconcerted by the slight disruption of his orderly routine, the professor nevertheless is determined to be affable in his formal, old-fashioned way. It is clear from the beginning of the story that Dr. Cornelius is dismayed and bewildered by the discrepancies between his values and those of his older children, and by their slang, their practical jokes, their frivolous ambitions, their casual manners. It is also clear, however, that there is affection and good humor among them as well, though tolerance seems to come much more easily to the youngsters.
The case is different with regard to the two younger children, five-year-old Ellie (her father’s favorite) and Snapper (four years old and more comfortable with his gentle mother). The professor is able to set aside his natural dignity while he plays with Ellie and Snapper. Today the games are cut short by preparations for the party, so Dr. Cornelius retires to his study, the little ones return to the nursery, and the others go off on various errands. Later, while the professor is resting, the guests begin to arrive....
(The entire section is 491 words.)