After the revelations at the conclusion of the novel, it is easy to see that Alec Ramsey is a bit of an innocent in idealizing Leeming as he has, despite the fact that he is a man over sixty. Ramsey ought to have known better or at least to have made some attempt to find out the truth about Leeming and his death. It is difficult for the reader to think of Ramsey in quite that way, however, because it is his wry, often cunning, and rarely fooled common sense with which the third-person narrator identifies much of the time. Ramsey is unaggressive, but he is nobody’s fool, and the style of wise and witty distance which dominates and shapes the tone of the novel is shared by him and the narrator.
Style is, in large part, the key to Ramsey’s character as he moves through the corridors of university power, often taking the skin of hypocrisy and self-interest off everyone and everything in sight. This same capacity for looking through pretentious facades and around corners of dubious intention is allowed Ramsey’s wife, Ella, who is more than simply a pretty middle-aged face and who can turn a memorable phrase of genially destructive intent quite as quickly as can Ramsey himself. She is particularly memorable in the way that she can use her intelligence and good sense to try to strip Ramsey of his cloak of psychological gloom.
The poet, who is teasingly unnamed (one suspects that Thomas Keneally had someone well-known in Australian literary...
(The entire section is 491 words.)