Because the two major characters of the novel are Meg Eliot and her brother, Angus Wilson largely limits his psychological revelations to them, revealing the other characters through dialogue and through the eyes of Meg and David. Although their personalities are very different—Meg effervescent and theatrical, David scholarly and private—they have both responded to a childhood with which they have not yet come to terms. Deserted by their father, herded from town to town by their mother as her little genteel business ventures failed, one after another, conscious of their poverty, both harbor a resentment of their past and a desperate need for security in the future. After her husband’s death, Meg thinks, “Bill was lost to her; and she was lost to loneliness, back where she had started, lying alone in some country hotel room....”
David, on the other hand, has been accustomed to loneliness, which his beloved partner Gordon Paget had insisted was the human condition. While David had for many years been forbidden sexual intimacy with his lover Gordon because of Gordon’s Christian beliefs and therefore had come to accept a hopeless, partial relationship, Meg had assumed that the seeming intimacy of her ideal marriage was the reality. Only after Bill’s death does she realize that Bill was unhappy in his corporate practice, which he undertook in order to make more money for her, and desperately worried about their financial instability and his own...
(The entire section is 576 words.)