The technique of having four first-person narrators alternating with one another (the fourth is Percy Brett, who briefly has his say toward the end of the novel) gives multiple perspectives on each character and reveals some carefully balanced structural motifs.
Jeremy consciously shapes his life in opposition to his father’s values. He views himself as a rebel, deliberately experimenting with a new way of life. Yet occasionally he realizes that he is closer to his father than he thought: “I saw the right path, and therefore I must follow it.... I suppose I’m the son of my father, deep down.” When he is in Paris, working devotedly at his music, he comments, looking back: “And all the time it never struck me that I was providing a copy-book example of one of the old man’s maxims. I was happy because I was working hard and forgetting about myself.” Like his father, he was rigorously pursuing an ideal. Even his girlfriend Diana reminds him (to his irritation) how much he remains influenced by the very values that he claims to have renounced.
It is Tim, not Jeremy, who is Alfred’s true opposite. Tim is the pleasure-seeker, always “fast-talking, full of gags, the ideal person to make a party go.” Jeremy admires him at first because he “seemed to enjoy life so much, and to live so vividly from one minute to the next.” In spite of his charm, however, Tim is selfish and without deep feeling. Jeremy observes that he seemed only two-dimensional, not like a complete person (“you couldn’t imagine him working, or doing any of the routine things that make up two-thirds of life”), and indeed, Tom soon turns out to be both a liar and a sponger....
(The entire section is 688 words.)