John’s attempt to purge himself of guilt for the death of Victoria is constantly frustrated by an unfeeling and indifferent world. Most of the novel’s characters hate children, especially the headmasters of the schools John attends. These educators, the black legend of Mr. Chips, are different from their Dickensian counterparts only in their preference for psychological, rather than physical, birching. Most of the other characters are similarly unsympathetic, being preoccupied with maintaining appearances and consistently indifferent to anything outside themselves.
John’s mother, a source of authority and respect, is distant and threatening, believing that problems find their proper solution through a faith in God, an attitude that has little relevance to her son. John’s only described encounter with the Anglican clergy other than his relations with his minister father ends disastrously. Father Delaura’s lack of understanding and his hostility convinces John that it is impossible to achieve solace through the Anglican faith; “crossing himself for the last time,” he hurries out of the church.
The sole person who seems to be interested in him is Greenbloom, an enticing neurotic with so much money he can pass as eccentric. Greenbloom, though, is as self-centered as everyone else, albeit more amusing and friendly. He convinces John that he is genuinely concerned about him. Consequently, in John’s eyes, Greenbloom can do no wrong....
(The entire section is 461 words.)