The events of the novel revolve, for the most part, around Michael Banks who leaves home early one morning with his lodger, William Hencher. Following Banks, readers skulk apprehensively in the dark, awaiting Rock Castle's arrival on a river barge at a London harbor. Later, at a race track in Aldington before the running of the "Golden Bowl" (Hawkes admits to a Jamesian reference), readers descend into a Hades like latrine beneath the race track, join Banks in a steam bath during a murder, revel with him in a Walpurgisnacht parody of promiscuous sex. Through each scene, related peripherally rather than described directly, the dreamlike quality pervades; intensely poetic language and vivid imagery combine to form a prose of incantation, a fiendish mixture of love and horror. With Banks, the reader wanders like fate from scene to scene so that each event seems a random occurrence without the causal and logical coherence of events in the conventional novel.
Margaret Banks, Michael's wife, also has several scenes. She is the antithesis of her husband: as Michael actively pursues his dreams and sexual fantasies, his wife is impelled toward an eradication of self. Her anxious vigil while she awaits her husband's return, her placidity as Little Dora veritably leads her into the room where she is held prisoner, her submissive ecstasy as she is beaten to death by the unsavory Thick — all these reveal Margaret as a character who, like her husband, lives...
(The entire section is 495 words.)