Frank, a retired construction engineer and widower, more than seventy years old, from Melbourne, Australia. He has taken his lover, Frances, north to live in a small cottage in a remote tropical area in Queensland, where he intends to escape people and examine the meaning of his life. A disenchanted former Communist and an atheist, he is an assertively self-assured man governed by his own rationality. He sees the world in terms of measurable quantities capable of explanation or analysis. Direct and opinionated, he does not relate to people easily. Estranged from his artist son, Frank still remains on good terms with his daughter, Joan. Untroubled by guilt, he dismisses the guilt held by Frances regarding her disapproving daughters, whom he sees as exploitative. His tall and athletic physique exudes an energetic vitality, which increasingly diminishes as the infirmity of a discovered heart ailment strikes. His illness causes a progressive withdrawal into himself that makes him difficult to live with, but eventually his condition makes him realize his dependence on other human beings. Frank is the initial motivator of the action as the coldly rational and dominant half of a complex love affair with a loving woman whose qualities and temperament contrast sharply with his own. When Frances leaves him temporarily, he arrives at the self-discovery that although he has “always loved mankind in general,” he has been ungenerous to some of those he has been “involved with in particular.” Effecting a reconciliation with Frances, who has now become the controller of the action, Frank puts aside his anticonventional prejudices for marriage. Frank, as a result of his life with Frances, has a monumental revelation about himself.
Frances, a slim and attractive woman of about fifty-five whose home has been in Melbourne. She is the...
(The entire section is 771 words.)