(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Henry Huxtable, his wife, and six spinster daughters lived in dreary middle-class respectability, supported by the income from a great store, the Madras-House. Their lives were in sharp contrast to that of the sales persons who were required to “live in” at store dormitories closely supervised to make sure that the store was actually as respectable as it seemed to be. Another owner was Constantine Madras, Katherine Huxtable’s brother, who had retreated from England and respectability and had lived for many years in Moslem countries.

The time had come for the sale of the Madras House; such a sale had been necessitated by confusion in family affairs. On an October Sunday, Philip Madras, Constantine’s son, heard that his father had returned to England, and he was distressed by this news of the reappearance of the elderly black sheep. But this was not the only problem that Philip wished to discuss with his uncle, Henry Huxtable. The morale of the store had been upset by the discovery that one of the closely supervised girls at the store, Marion Yates, was pregnant. It was suspected that her betrayer was Mr. Brigstock, another sales person, for he had been seen kissing the disgraced girl. The old immorality of Constantine—who, it was soon learned, had lived as the master of a harem in Arabia—and the current immorality of Marion were threats to what the Huxtables called decency.

First, the Marion Yates situation was inquired into. It was immediately apparent that the young woman would refuse to name the father of her child. Instead, she planned to bear it and bring it up as her nephew or niece; the child, at least, would not be affected by family pressures for which the Huxtables stood.

Another problem that came up concerned the prospective buyer of the...

(The entire section is 733 words.)