(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

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Act 1. Ramsden and Octavius discuss Ann, whom Octavius wants to marry, and John Tanner, Octavius’s friend and the author of The Revolutionist’s Handbook. Tanner enters, protesting that he and Ramsden had been named Ann’s guardians in her father’s will. Ramsden does not wish to serve with Tanner and Tanner does not wish to serve at all, but Ann, entering with her mother, refuses to dispense with either guardian. Tanner states that Ann will do what she likes in any case. When they are left alone, Tanner and Octavius discuss Ann; Tanner predicts that she will eventually marry Octavius. Ann and Ramsden return with the news that Octavius’s unmarried sister, Violet, is pregnant. Ramsden and Octavius leave, and Tanner and Ann engage in a long discussion about their relations when younger. Tanner asserts that he has grown up and no longer plays romantic games; now he is concerned to break creeds and demolish ideals. When Violet comes in, Tanner approves of her conduct, but Violet says that she is, in fact, married, but she refuses to name the man.

Act 2. While Henry Straker, the chauffeur, is working on Tanner’s car, Octavius announces that he has proposed to Ann and has been put off. Ann comes in and discusses why she has forbidden her sister to take a drive with Tanner. Tanner says he is off on a trip to Algiers and jestingly asks Ann if she wishes to accompany him. To his horror, she accepts. Ramsden, Octavius, Mrs. Whitefield, and Hector Malone, a rich young American, enter, and Hector says that he will take Violet in his car. All except Hector leave for a walk, whereupon Violet returns and kisses Hector. They have been keeping their marriage secret because Hector’s rich father wants him to marry a British aristocrat. After they leave, Straker and Tanner come back discussing Ann; Straker insists that it is Tanner whom Ann is pursuing. At that, Tanner panics and orders Straker to get ready to set off on a trip to North Africa....

(The entire section is 807 words.)