The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

While on a walking holiday, John Howard enters an unsafe cave and is cut off from the entrance by a rockfall. He goes deeper into the cave and finds another way out. He assumes that he is in the same England that he left behind, but when he tries to give sixpence to a tramp, he is threatened with arrest. By contrast, when a man attempts to relieve him of his watch and his money while he lies asleep, the act is construed by others as charity. He is in Upsidonia, where everyone longs to be desperately poor and wealth is despised.

Howard is saved from the vengeance of the tramp—who is actually Lord Potter, a stalwart of Upsidonia’s “dirty set”—by the philanthropically inclined Mr. Perry, who takes him in, apologizing profusely for the comforts he cannot help but provide. Perry’s children, Edward and Miriam, take the newcomer in hand and set about teaching him the perverse etiquette of Upsidonian society. At first, Howard is inclined to take full advantage of the opportunities for self-indulgence that the situation permits, but he finds the contempt of his fellows hard to bear. Wallowing in luxury quickly loses its appeal when it awakens such disgust in every witness.

In time, Howard learns to fit in with the Upsidonian way of life and to win a degree of respect from his hosts. As a member of the English lower middle class, he has been forced to cultivate abstemious habits that stand him in reasonably good stead in his new...

(The entire section is 488 words.)