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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Davies’ first novel, Tempest-Tost, draws heavily on his own involvement in community theatrical productions. While the novel uses multiple points of view, its protagonist is clearly Hector Mackilwraith, a lonely mathematics teacher who bravely chooses to vary the routine of his day-to-day existence by auditioning for a part in the Salterton Little Theatre production of The Tempest. Though he admonishes himself to “do nothing foolish,” the thought that he may soon be leaving Salterton for a different job encourages him to take the chance. His audition for the part of Gonzalo is not excellent, but he suggests that if he is not given a part, he will no longer serve in his essential role as treasurer of the Salterton Little Theatre. This production will be the company’s first outdoor production, to be performed at St. Agnes’s, an estate owned by George Alexander Webster.

Other important characters include Freddy (Fredegonde) Webster, the fourteen-year-old daughter of George Alexander Webster, and Griselda, her eighteen-year-old sister, with whom Hector becomes infatuated. As in a Shakespearean comedy, there are several other characters and relationships that provide a perspective on the story’s main action. Some characters involved with the Salterton Little Theatre seem designed to allow Davies to highlight, satirically, certain aspects of small-town life, and the conflicts, artistic and otherwise, that arise in local theater groups. Indeed, Salterton bears considerable resemblance to Kingston, Ontario, where the author spent much of his younger life, and several of the novel’s characters can be traced to individuals that Davies encountered there and in his earlier theatrical endeavors.

The fuller characters are the ones whom Hector perceives as threats to his future with Griselda. Solly Bridgetower is the wise-cracking young assistant director who is dominated by his mother, and he is the man in whom Griselda is actually interested. Roger Tasset is the play’s leading man, a womanizer who eventually fights with Solly. The play’s director is thirty-six-year-old Valentine Rich, a professional director who has taken on the Salterton Little Theatre production as a favor. She is also in town to settle the estate of her grandfather, Dr. Adam Savage.

Conflict arises as Hector, a very shy man but one who nonetheless has set his mind and heart on Griselda, begins to perceive Solly and Roger as romantic rivals. Griselda is moderately interested in Solly, who is sincerely attracted to her; Roger is only interested in her money and in winning her away from Solly, and declares his intention of taking her to the June Ball.

Hearing this, Hector decides to attend the ball as well, obtaining a ticket...

(The entire section is 658 words.)