(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Stanley and the Women is divided into four parts, “Onset,” “Progress,” “Relapse,” and “Prognosis.” These refer most obviously to Stanley Duke’s son Steve, who at the start of the novel returns from a holiday abroad, shows immediate signs of disturbance, is diagnosed as schizophrenic, and is eventually hospitalized. Later, he is released into his father’s care but continues to show violent behavior, culminating in an accusation by his stepmother that he has attacked and stabbed her with a knife. He is returned to the hospital. The novel ends with no sign of his being cured.

Yet the main action of the novel concerns itself less with Steve, whose case is too inscrutable to be a primary interest, than with what his father perceives as the continuing irrational behavior of a whole sequence of women. Foremost among these is Trish Collings, the doctor appointed to look after Steve, who (again in Stanley’s perception) shows immediate hostility to her patient’s father and guides her treatment of Steve entirely with the aim of throwing guilt upon Stanley. She is abetted in this, though, by Nowell Hutchinson, Stanley’s first wife, and as the novel progresses, the reader begins very slowly to think that Stanley’s second wife, Susan, who has in the beginning seemed an ideal partner, is “on the other side” as well, concerned above all to secure her husband’s total attention and refusing to allow any of it to be redirected to...

(The entire section is 484 words.)