Mr. Escot, a philosopher of the “deteriorationist” school. Heavily influenced by the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, he believes that the condition of humankind has been corrupted by civilization and luxury and is physically degenerate in comparison with conditions of prehistoric ancestors. As with all of his fellow guests at Headlong Hall, however, he does not allow his doom-laden judgments to detract from his enjoyment of the weekend’s entertainments. Nor does his pessimism inhibit his ardent courtship of the lovely Cephalis Cranium, during the course of which he must exercise courage and cunning to outshine his rival, the erudite Mr. Panscope.
Mr. Foster, a philosopher of the “perfectibilian” school. As a fervent believer in progress, arguing that the inexorable advancement of technology coupled with the refinement of morals will lead eventually to the perfection of human society, he is diametrically opposed to Mr. Escot on every issue. In matters of everyday conduct, however, he and Mr. Escot are very much alike. His simultaneous marriage to Caprioletta Headlong—Cephalis Cranium’s dearest friend—ensures that their lives will continue to mirror each another.
Mr. Cranium, a determinist who believes that the characteristics of individual people can be read in the bumps on their skulls (the author does not use the term “phrenology”). When Mr. Escot saves him from drowning, he is inclined to withhold credit on the...
(The entire section is 631 words.)