The Bentleys’ contempt for Horizon and its provincial values is the social expression of their private despair. Philip, an aspiring but unaccomplished artist, has become a clergyman not out of religious conviction but simply in order to make a living, while Mrs. Bentley, a moderately talented musician, has given up dreams of a musical career to play the organ in her husband’s church on Sundays. Philip’s unhappiness expresses itself in his rejection of all social intercourse; he habitually retreats to his private study, where, instead of writing sermons, he sketches the bleak landscapes and false-fronted towns which reflect the desolation and hypocrisy he feels. Mrs. Bentley is plagued by guilt. Believing that marriage has thwarted her husband’s artistic ambition, and feeling sensitive about his disappointed desire for children, she takes extraordinary pains to humor Philip’s eccentricities. Occasionally, how ever, her excess of guilt and resentment explodes outward in angry tirades against him; unable to bear the emotional burden alone, she must sometimes force him to share it.
Ironically, although neither husband nor wife is happy, Mrs. Bentley derives a perverse security in their sharing of unhappiness. This security is shaken when Paul Kirby introduces them to Steve. The Bentleys adopt Steve in spite of the murmured protests from the townspeople that Steve comes from a bad family and, worse, that the boy is a Roman Catholic. Projecting onto Steve the indignation he still feels toward his own boyhood humiliations, Philip defends Steve passionately against the opinion of the town. Mrs. Bentley’s attitude toward the boy is ambivalent: “I like Steve, and at the same time I resent him. I grudge every minute...
(The entire section is 707 words.)