In The Good Companions, Priestley perfected a favorite device of throwing together a disparate group of people who attempt to achieve a common goal. He succeeded in his intent to write a long, old-fashioned novel, creating a relaxed, bittersweet tale, told in good humor. His most popular novel, The Good Companions has remained in print since its first publication. Its style and popular success place Priestley alongside the masters of the long English novel, Henry Fielding, Charles Dickens, and William Makepeace Thackeray. It most closely resembles the Victorian style, with its humorous chapter subtitles, for example: “Inigo Jumps Out of a Train and Finds Himself in Love.”
Priestley constructed The Good Companions like a three-act play. In Book One, strangers meet and band together. Mr. Oakroyd is escaping the burden of job and family. Elizabeth Trant is on her own after years of nursing her sick father. Inigo Jollifant is a former schoolteacher with a knack for knocking out a quick tune on the piano. United by a need to flee responsibilities and to find happiness, they befriend a broken-down theatrical troupe called the Dinky Doos.
In Book Two, they set out to tour the provinces with a new name, The Good Companions. The dreams, frustrations, hard work, and joys of the traveling performers are chronicled. Secondary characters are quickly drawn as stereotypes, immediately identifiable as personalities associated...
(The entire section is 447 words.)