Social Concerns / Themes

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 232

Point of No Return concerns the price of upward mobility in post-World War II suburbia. Its protagonist, Charles Grey, uses his childhood experience within the frozen stratification of his New England hometown to hone the skills demanded of him as he becomes a New York banker. The cost of success is high. As he and his wife Nancy search for the values of their combined life they concede its "contrived" nature and find affirmation only in their unity and their independence. The bedroom-town setting that drains Charles' vitality typifies the environments in which many of Marquand's organization men must struggle.

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Point of No Return argues that the price of success is spiritual vacuity. Charles, like most of Marquand's protagonists, is not a failure, nor has he become corrupted by his rise in any serious way. His old friends in Clyde perceive him as powerful and polished, and he lowers himself to sparring with his rival only on a trivial matter and after a mental struggle. Indeed, compared to his hometown best friend, who never leaves Clyde, he is an embodiment of vitality, for Jackie Mason ends up with everything Charles could have had by staying home (including Jessica Lovell) but still gives an impression of being covered with cobwebs. Nevertheless the sense of anticlimax Charles feels when he succeeds calls into serious question the values required by his devotion to the struggle.

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