Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 606
John Lewis, a young assistant librarian in the Welsh community of Aberdarcy. Married five and a half years and the father of two small children, he is restless, bored, and vaguely dissatisfied with his lot, play-acting at life rather than living it. Poorly paid and with only the hypochondriac Mrs. Jenkins as baby-sitter, he and his wife are tied down to their crowded, cluttered flat. Although he loves his wife, he has been faithful more through luck than self-restraint, and he readily becomes involved with local socialite Elizabeth Gruffydd-Williams when she displays an interest in him. Her husband has offered to support Lewis in his application for a more prestigious position at the library. Although he is uncomfortable with the idea of Gruffydd-Williams pulling strings to get him the job, Lewis nevertheless takes up with the local crowd of socialites, simultaneously attracted to and repulsed by this rich, reckless, English-acting, party-going crowd. Enthralled by the prospect of fancy cars, beautiful women, and freedom, he imagines that he fits in with this elite group, but they laugh at him behind his back. Eventually realizing the shallow, even dangerous, nature of these pseudo-English Welshmen, he returns with his family to his hometown, finally comfortable with his Welsh heritage.
Elizabeth Gruffydd-Williams, the beautiful black-haired, fair-skinned wife of a prominent Aberdarcy citizen. Traveling with a fast crowd, she intends to make John Lewis her latest conquest upon their first meeting at the library. A heavy drinker, she has a penchant for stirring up trouble and making romantic conquests. Heedless of the consequences of her actions and of other people’s feelings, she exists only to be amused, certain that she will be rescued by her husband if a situation gets out of control.
Jean Lewis, John’s wife, a small woman with dark red hair, large eyes, and a thin, full-lipped face. She is visibly tired and drawn from rearing two small, demanding children. Confined to the family’s flat day after day, she realizes immediately that her husband is involved with Elizabeth and her crowd. She is deeply hurt and shuts him out of her life until he realizes how foolish he has been.
Vernon Gruffydd-Williams, Elizabeth’s husband, a prominent Aberdarcy citizen. A wealthy member of the town council and Library Committee, he is willing to use his authority to get Lewis appointed to the sub-librarian position merely because he wants to irritate a colleague who does not like Lewis. Apparently used to his wife’s flings with other men, he is there to bail her out when she gets in over her head.
Ieuan Jenkins, Lewis’ coworker at the library. A man in his late forties, Jenkins is desperate to be appointed to the sub-librarian job that Lewis has applied for, knowing that it represents his last chance for relief from his sickly wife’s whining.
Mrs. Jenkins, Ieuan Jenkins’ wife and occasional babysitter for the Lewis children. She constantly complains of her frail health, although doctors have found nothing wrong with her. She insists that her husband must get the sub-librarian job at the Aberdarcy library.
Bill Evans, a member of Elizabeth’s crowd. Evans, from all indications, was Elizabeth’s most recent fling before her interest in Lewis. Once Lewis enters the picture, Evans is reduced to fetching and carrying for Elizabeth, baby-sitting the Lewis children, and hauling groceries and drinks for parties.
Gareth Probert, a scruffy, poetry-writing office worker who has been taken up by Elizabeth’s crowd. He shows some romantic interest in Jean Lewis.
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