(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

A Voyage Round My Father is an autobiographical memory play comprised of chronological episodes spanning two decades. A reflective narrator links past and present and is a unifying force, participating in the action (as man and boy) and stepping out of it to address the audience. The narrator reveals a symbiotic yet strangely distant and unemotional relationship between the son and his father, a blind barrister. As the title suggests, the son never gets as close to his father as he desired, partly as a result of the blindness, but also because the older man regarded life as a game and built an impenetrable emotional barrier between himself and everyone else, even the wife upon whom he totally depended. Despite his father’s coldness and self-absorption, Mortimer intends A Voyage Round My Father as a loving tribute.

The play starts with the old man having his adult son describe the family garden. After the son as narrator gives the audience some background, the action reverts to the past, with youthful initiation episodes at home and school. When the son must decide upon a profession, the old barrister, who regards the law contemptuously, encourages his boy to choose it, primarily because it will give him spare time for writing. In the second act, the young man is working in a wartime propaganda film unit in lieu of military service; there he falls in love with a married woman. After her divorce, by which time he is a barrister, they...

(The entire section is 561 words.)