The guests at the Hotel Swiss-Touring are individuals, refugees from domestic strife who nevertheless need relationships, regardless of how destructive those ties may be. Even though she has willingly left her family to follow Robert to Europe, Lilia misses them and feels their disapproval of her relationship; she salvages her “honor” and returns to England only after she leaves Robert. Initially, Robert seems less in need of the relationship, partly because of his ties to his mother and sisters, whose primacy is reaffirmed when he chooses his sister over Lilia. He cannot, however, accept her continued absence and declares, “I do not know what I am going to do without Mrs. Trollope.” Lilia must choose between Robert and “some kind of freedom”; Robert discovers that his “freedom” from commitment has its cost in self-deception and aimless wandering.
Although they are married, the Blaises are not a “family,” for they are bound only by their children and, more important, by Mrs. Blaise’s money. Mrs. Blaise lives at the Hotel Swiss-Touring and vows never to return to her home in Basel, where her husband lives, but she depends on her husband for drugs and for the bitterness and cynicism she needs to augment her own hostility toward the outside world. So insulated is she that she is literally wrapped up in clothes to protect herself against infection from others and from advances from her husband. Yet she is addicted to their relationship, for her husband can help her transform her insecurity and jealousy of Lilia into self-righteous snobbery. Although he does help his wife in a perverse, destructive way (he also contributes to her addiction by giving her drugs), Dr. Blaise sees marriage as a curse which sanctions slavery, and he can free himself only by killing his wife. Mrs. Blaise is so cynical about family and marriage...
(The entire section is 756 words.)