Thursday, 19 May 2016

Painful Time

Out of love comes superstition. Intense emotions make the feelings fragile, and this is made worse by our complete dependence upon the person who generates them, producing a desperate need for security, that increases exponentially when the lovers are separated; Bendrix fraught with anxiety because Sarah lives with her husband. Wild passions, mixed with this wretched need for a stability that can never be gained, awakes a mental turmoil that seeks magic solutions to this state, it is an illness, that cannot be resolved, will not be cured, until the emotional temperature cools. Charms. Occult words. Astrological charts. We need them all, if we are to survive such intense affairs.

Maurice Bendrix loves Sarah Miles. Yet he spoils his love through his acute distrust - believing she sleeps with other men (she has form) he is constantly trying to discover signs of her infidelity. He therefore creates doubt, where none should exist. For the problem is absolutely certain and banal - Sarah still lives at home. In between the arguments there are moments of complete freedom and trust, usually after sexual abandonment, as when they copulate on Sarah’s living room floor; Henry unaware elsewhere in the house. But the pain is terrible, hardly compensated by these moments of ecstasy. Always Bendrix is trying to catch her out. He argues over minor things; he ruins a rare free day by starting a quarrel, which ends with him walking out of his own flat. In these affairs love very quickly turns into hate. Indeed, they are - as Bendrix, who is a writer and thus highly self-conscious and articulate, will himself say - the same thing; love and hate different polarities of a single emotion; love is when the woman is in our arms, hate when she is out of reach.

The first part of the novel is seen through the eyes of the narrator, and emphasises the insecurity and strangeness of love. It begins, long after the affair has ended, when Bendrix meets, quite by chance, an unhappy Henry Miles, who has suspicions about his wife’s fidelity. Ostensibly for Henry’s benefit, but because his dormant jealousy has been aroused, and he believes that the identity of the long-hidden lover will now be discovered, Bendrix hires a private detective to follow Sarah. She is meeting a man called Smythe, who is a fanatical rationalist. What an odd thing to note! Love, by making us acutely aware of reality, makes our lives strange; stimulating the imagination and heightening our reason, which becomes obsessive, transforming the world into a melodrama we desperately wish to end… To end? Yes! No one wants to ride a rollercoaster every day of their lives; such a life too exciting, too unsettling, too unnervingly weird to be comfortable for long. There are fights. There is Sehnsucht. Filled with an infinite longing, that slows down time, even stops it on occasion, we become bored with our own listlessness; time turned into a rack few can easily bear, stretching our patience to the limit. Love is months of uneasiness, where we become strangers to ourselves; where we do bizarre things, that nevertheless feel normal; the logic of love different from the logic of ordinary living; Bendrix and Sarah copulating with doodlebugs flying past the window; oh do look us, why don’t you pop in….

As I ran down the stairs I heard the next robot going over, and then the sudden waiting silence when the engine cut out. We hadn’t yet had time to learn that that was the moment of risk, to get out of the line of glass, to lie flat. I never heard the explosion, and I woke after five seconds or five minutes in a changed world. I thought I was still on my feet and I was puzzled by the darkness: somebody seems to be pressing a cold fist into my cheek and my mouth was salty with blood. My mind for a few moments was clear of everything except a sense of tiredness as though I had been on a long journey. I had no memory at all of Sarah and I was completely free from anxiety, jealousy, insecurity, hate: my mind was a blank sheet on which somebody had just been on the point of writing a message of happiness. I felt sure that when my memory came back, the writing would continue and that I should be happy.

But when memory did return it was not in that way. I realised first that I was lying on my back and that what balanced over me, shutting out the light, was the front door: some other debris had caught it and suspended it a few inches above my body, though the odd thing was that later I found myself bruised from the shoulders to the knees as if by its shadow. The fist that fitted into my cheek was the china handle of the door, and it had knocked out a couple of my teeth. After that, of course, I remembered Sarah and Henry and the dread of love ending.

I got out from under the door and dusted myself down. I called to the basement but there was nobody there. Through the blasted doorway I could see the grey morning light and I had a sense of great emptiness stretching out from the ruined hall: I realised that a tree which had blocked the light had simply ceased to exist - there was no sign of even a fallen trunk. A long way off wardens were blowing whistles. I went upstairs. The first flight had lost its banisters and was a foot deep in plaster, but the house hadn’t really, by the standard of those days, suffered badly: it was our neighbours who had caught the full blast. The door of my room was open and coming along the passage I could see Sarah: she had got off the bed and was crouched on the floor - from fear, I supposed. She looked absurdly young, like a naked child. I said, ‘That was a close one.’

She turned quickly and stared at me with fear. I hadn’t realised that my dressing-gown was torn and dusted all over with plaster; my hair was white with it, and there was blood on my mouth and cheeks. ‘Oh, God,’ she said, ‘you’re alive.’

‘You sound disappointed.’

She got up from the floor and reached for her clothes. I told her, ‘There’s no point in your going yet. There must be an All Clear soon.’

‘I’ve got to go.’

This love affair is a large scale symbol for the war - especially the euphoria it generated amongst the civilian population, particularly in London during the Blitz. Bendrix, like Stella in The Heat of the Day, feels at times a criminal; war an accomplice, he says, to his crime. With no war there would have been no affair; the characters too cool and self-centred to have fallen so desperately in love during the temperate days of peace. At its most basic, the war, by disturbing the normal routines of life and keeping Henry away from home, creates the space in which the lovers meet. But this affair is more than an contingent opportunity; it is both high passion and a moral invasion - Bendrix and Sarah destroying the quiet streets, the respectable houses, the gentility, of suburban Clapham; we think of Henry in his study as the lovers shag in the room below.

The affair is told in retrospect. It’s as if…the narrator is writing a novel. The wonderfully sharp similes (“She always harboured my criticism: it was only praise that slid from her like the snow.”), the use of a private detective, the desperate urge to solve the mystery of Sarah’s walkout, all suggest a writer inventing a story to explain a curious and enigmatic episode.

The end of the affair has left Bendrix with a puzzle: why did it finish so suddenly? His solution is a simple one: there must have been another man. It is the only reason his suspicious mind can conceive; suspicion both stimulating and narrowing the imaginative faculty. Although later, when he knows the truth, and begins to coolly analyse the evidence, he will not admit his mistake; finessing his error, he thinks their love already in decline the day the doodlebug landed; so difficult it is to accept the strangeness of love, the odd things it makes people do. For two years Bendrix had lived with this riddle; though over time the question loses its urgency, until the chance meeting with Henry rekindles it. Why did she leave me?

Detective Parkis steals Sarah’s diary.

He hadn’t been gone two minutes when there was an explosion in the street. His room was at the back and nothing happened except that the door was sucked open and some plaster fell, but I knew that he was at the front of the house when the bomb fell. I went down the stairs: the hall was in an awful mess. I didn’t see Maurice at first, and then I saw his arm coming out from under the door. I touched his hand: I could have sworn it was a dead hand. When two people have loved each other, they can’t disguise a lack of tenderness in a kiss, and wouldn't I have recognized life if there was any of it left in touching his hand? I knew that if I took his hand and pulled it towards me, it would come away, all by itself, from under the door. Now, of course, I know that this was hysteria. I was cheated. He wasn’t dead. Is one responsible for what one promises in hysteria? Or what promises one breaks? I’m hysterical now, writing all this down. But there’s not a single person anywhere to whom I can even say I’m unhappy because they would ask me why and the questions would begin and I would break down. I mustn’t break down because I must protect Henry. Oh, to hell with Henry, to hell with Henry. I want somebody who’ll accept the truth about me and doesn’t need protection. If I’m a bitch and a fake, is there nobody who will love a bitch and a fake?

I knelt down on the floor: I was mad to do such a thing: I never even had to do it as a child - my parents never believed in prayer, any more than I do. I hadn’t any idea what to say. Maurice was dead. Extinct. There wasn’t such a thing as a soul. Even the half-happiness I gave him was drained out of him like blood. He would never have the chance to be happy again. With anybody I thought: somebody else could have loved him and made him happier than I could, but now he won’t have that chance. I knelt and put my head on the bed and wished I could believe. Dear God, I said, - why dear, why dear? - make me believe. I can’t believe.  Make me. I said, I’m a bitch and a fake and I hate myself. I can’t do anything of myself. Make me believe. I shut my eyes tight, and I pressed my nails into the palms of my hands until I could feel nothing but the pain, and I said, I will believe. Let him be alive, and I will believe. Give him a chance. Let him have his happiness. Do this and I’ll believe. But that wasn't enough. It doesn't hurt to believe. So I said, I love him and I’ll do anything if you’ll make him alive. I said very slowly, I’ll give him up for ever, only let him be alive with a chance, and I pressed and pressed and I could feel the skin break, and I said, People can love without seeing each other, can’t they, they love You all their lives without seeing You, and then he came in at the door, and he was alive, and I thought now the agony of being without him starts, and I wished he was safely back dead again under the door.

All is explained in this marvellously paradoxical passage. It is her love for Bendrix that makes Sarah end the affair. Made superstitious by her love, Sarah promises her imagination - she doesn’t actually believe in a Christian god; her words more cabalistic symbols than divine revelation - to give her lover up. Ideas fused with feelings, her thoughts entwined with impassioned love, Sarah has created a strong but unstable faith, which she can maintain only by flight; proximity to the loved one -  the flesh of reality - too dangerous for the superstitious mind, whose belief is weak and fleeting.1

Neither are comfortable with strong passions; this at least is clear. And both might be right. The affair may have been cooling, and Sarah, experiencing her first doubts about it, may have decided that only by separating can she keep her feelings intact - a love safe in the memory far better than the uncertainties, the pain, the terrible ordeal of its slow decline. The “perfect moment”must not be sullied. Or Sarah may have already sensed that Bendix is cooling off.Or there is too much hate in his love; to separate the only way to keep the beautiful feelings beautiful - her pretty park will not be ripped up by the bulldozers…she will not allow these horrible arguments to destroy that wonderful past. We speculate, of course, for Sarah’s emotions camouflage such utilitarian thoughts; God her means of hiding uncomfortable truths; the unconscious a benevolent deityprotecting the feelings from their own violence and ugliness.5

Over time these feelings can crystallise into a faith. And this does happen, through a chance meeting with a rationalist, whose crude arguments produce a reaction - Sarah, in responding to the religious feeling in his atheism,decides to become a Catholic, through yet another chance meeting, in a church she entered almost at random.

Chance. It is everywhere in this novel, the opening paragraph begins with an accidental meeting between Bendrix and Henry Miles; the rainstorm that engulfs them an obvious metaphor for their psychological distress. War damages order, which produces the unexpected; making the world unpredictable, and turning daily living into a lottery. For some this creates the intoxicating urge to live solely in the instant; to let oneself go freely and totally, to experience moments of almost mystical oblivion in sensual delight. In others it will induce a desire for certainty, a really desperate need to reorder one’s mode of life and one’s ideas on an absolutely secure basis. Bendrix is a rational and ordered creature; his vicious arguments arising out of the insecurities produced by high passion that are intensified by his dependence upon a person outside his power; Sarah always slipping free, following her own instincts. The more passionate the affair is, the more chaotic his life becomes, the greater is the narrator’s obsession with control; but Bendrix cannot tame a free spirit; the affair driving him close to madness.7

Sarah revels in high risks; this wild affair a source of joy and exhilaration that holds no terrors only wonders. Then… 

…the doodlebug falls. With her sensibility blasted apart, her sense of security vanishes, and Sarah, suddenly fragile and unstable, feels a tremendous need to anchor herself to some one thing - she commits herself to an idea; it is her Anderson Shelter beneath the wreckage of a bombed-out love. Once committed to this idea she cannot give it up. It is the only way she retain control, keep her sanity. The crazy carefree life has switched - snap! - into a guarded superstition; itself the basis for a later religious conversion. Out of anarchy emerges a new order, one that is purer than before; the chaotic contingencies of daily living, dominated by the omnipresent senses, are now replaced by a single concept, the abstract mind taking absolute control over Sarah’s emotions. The basket of loose threads that is the agnostic’s mentality becomes the believer’s knot of tightly held beliefs; the fanatic’s addiction to a single idea. 

Sarah is not the only one with an idée fixe. Bendrix is obsessed about her infidelity; however, because he lacks faith, this idea produces only doubt, which hurts so much, it tortures… 

Only faith, no matter how bizarre it seems, can keep you sane. 

Bendrix relies on passing time.

He is lucky. Sarah dies, and she quickly fades from his thoughts. For death, by removing the doubts, takes away the pain,and is a relief, a blessing. 

What is that pain? It is a fixation upon an idea; the obsessive churning up of a single concept within the mind’s limited compass; we think of a boat, it’s propellers constantly beating up the same patch of water. The agony horrendous, the idea grows and grows until, eventually, it structures a person’s entire way of thinking; Sarah governed by a single, impassioned, omnipotent notion - I must flee from my love to save it.

The wilder your life, the more likely you are to find God in it. 

The sudden shift of focus is both surprising and delightful; although it does feel stagy. Once again we are reminded of a writer making stuff up; so as to give his life the needed pattern; Bendrix preferring to invent a solution - thus creating art - than leave his mystery unsolved; artists never happy when faced with reality’s aporia.

The third part of novel veers into a religious discourse that seems at odds with the realistic descriptions of wartime London. 

When he reads Sarah’s diary Bendrix realises that she has always been in love with him. This resurrects his feelings, and he runs after his exiled lover; to again suffer terrible insecurities. Oddities and coincidences accompany the doubts and pain. Then Sarah dies. And Smythe rings up to say that his disfigured face has been cured by a miracle; her mother reveals that unbeknownst to anyone, including her daughter, she had Sarah baptised a Catholic; Henry lends Parkis one of Sarah’s childhood books, whose inscription uncannily echoes his son’s situation: “When I was ill my mother gave me this book by Lang./If any well person steals it he will get a great bang,/But if you are sick in bed/You can have it to read instead.” The supernatural is leaking into ordinary life, making it look odd and miraculous. 

To protect himself against these unsettling notions Bendrix insists on maintaining the rational order of daily life, about which he makes a fetish. Thus he refuses to change Sarah’s funeral plans (a priest insists she should have a Catholic burial) because of the imagined reactions of the press and Henry’s colleagues - the secular order must be secured against the irrational and the seriously religious. The more bizarre reality becomes the greater the need for reason; now transformed into a magic charm, an Azande oracle.

The affair is over, and for good. During a few brief moments it seemed otherwise; but Sarah’s promise to God, and the Catholic priest’s intervention, kills it for all eternity. God has entered into Bendrix’s sceptical life, and he doesn’t like it. He hates God! He attacks His interventions, all of which, he believes, have been for the bad; although a strict moralist would argue that ending an adulterous affair is a moral good; but then priests are simple-minded souls; the novelist is wiser, more alert to the complexities of living - thus to compensate for her loss Sarah indiscriminately sleeps with other men; it is penance for her faith.9

When God intervenes in the world he does something unnatural - he superimposes an abstract order onto the rough-and-ready animal attributes of human existence to pull them out of shape; the speculative mind queering a rational faculty made to serve the senses. God complicates life; He makes it metaphysical, intellectually artificial; He gives it too much rigour, introducing too much restraint into a natural order where comfort should be the only concern.10 We imagine a cold winter’s day. It is late evening. A preacher comes home from his ministry, and turns off the central heating. The kids shout out and moan. The heat of our thoughts will warm us, he says; let us pray, let us light up, let us kindle our faith. Faith. It is more potent than radiators. Say your prayers and you will be content; for prayer is like a thick jumper; it will always keep you warm. In the 20th century God was conceived no longer as a moral good, but as an error of nature; a form of mental illness, a kind of evil.11

Bendrix can’t blame it all on God. Chance is by far the most important factor in this novel. So much hinges on it; a single moment determining a whole lifetime: if Bendrix hadn’t told Henry of their affair, Sarah would have left her husband, and gone to live with him. Chance. It is the meaning of love. Also of war. It is modernity’s greatest revelation: there is no simple and predictable rational order to the human universe.

I felt that afternoon such complete trust when she said to me suddenly, without being questioned, ‘I’ve never loved anybody or anything as I do you.’  It was as if, sitting there in the chair with a half-eaten sandwich in her hand, she was abandoning herself as completely as she had done, five minutes back, on the hardwood floor. We most of us hesitate to make so complete a statement - we remember and we foresee and we doubt. She had no doubts. The moment only mattered. Eternity is said not be be an extension of time but an absence of time, and sometimes it seemed to me that her abandonment touched that strange mathematical point of endlessness, a point with no width, occupying no space. What did time matter - all the past and the other men she may from time to time (there is that word again) have known, or all the future in which she might be making the same statement with the same sense of truth? When I replied that I loved her too in that way, I was the liar, not she, for I never lose the consciousness of time: to me the present is never here: it is always last year or next week.12

If only Bendrix could subsume himself in the moment, then he would be free and happy. He cannot. Unable to leave the ordered life behind, and yet confronted by a person who can, Bendrix feels insecure; Sarah making him feel inadequate, putting herself out of his reach.13


Waking on the shore to find the sand is cold
The smile is on his lips but soon the smile is old

He looks to see her there, she waits for him to come
But he will turn away, it’s easier for some

And life’s tormented sea will carry her away
He knows he’ll never be the one to make her stay

She swims just out of reach where all his hopes are pinned
And courage blows away like anger in the wind.


Life’s tormented sea will carry her away
He knows he’ll never be the one to make her stay

She swims just out of reach where all his hopes are pinned
And courage blows away like anger in the wind

For waking on the shore to find the sand is cold
The smile is on his lips but soon the smile is old

And all the songs she sings he’ll never understand
She’s shouting at the wind he’s rooted to the land.
(Sea Lady, Norma Winstone)


A civilian at war is pulled apart by two different modalities. It is the tension between these two modes of existence that causes Bendrix so much pain; his wrecked house and his momentary obliteration metaphors for the damage the Blitz is doing to him. He needs peace!14 One kind of life only, please.

Sarah is the lucky one. She can lose herself in the fleeting minutes, secure that Henry will always remain at home.15 This war suits her character.16 It is the best of times in her life! until that explosion, when everything changes, her bliss wrecked, it is becoming fragile, is under attack. The Blitz: an idyllic island, a Pacific atoll, threatened by rising waters…17

Out of the devastation an old order re-emerges, one more abstract and delicate than before. The blissful infinity of the moment - “her abandonment” to love - has been replaced by the brittle finitude of an idée fixe - that love is easily lost. At first the idea is linked to a strong and unstable feeling, which produces merely superstition. However, such superstitions, when given the right mental framework,18 can be turned into faith - that is, an abstract idea suffused with strong feelings. Sarah is blessed with such a mind, which gives chaos a form and bonds the mind to a single passionate idea; so creating God, to which she sacrifices herself. Little wonder Bendrix wants Him to disappear. It is too late. A German “robot” has delivered a Middle Eastern deity to South London, and he is here to stay; at least until Sarah’s death extinguishes him. Irony? Of course! How else but by irony could such a God exist in modern times?


                                               ____________________________


1. There are similarities with Bendrix, although his desire for totality is the need to merge with the love object; to subsume Sarah within his own being. The desire being egocentric it is destructive, and will, we are sure, eventually force them apart.

Bendrix lacks Sarah’s faith; too rooted to contingent things, his mind is not strong enough to give itself up to an idea, a person, love, and so he becomes trapped by an obsession.

Faith: it is a form of liberty.

2.  …in Sartre’s Nausea. E.H. Young puts it nicely:

…she had meant to record the blessedness of being able to keep certain hours and incidents inviolate, to enclose them in a frame of memory and put glass over them, safe from the contamination of less happy times. (Chatterton Square)

3.  See E Evans-Pritchard’s Witchcraft, Oracles And Magic Among The Azande, which shows the intimate connection between magic and superstition; white magic a protection against other people’s bad thoughts.

4.  One of the mistakes of Freud, as of modernity more generally, is to believe that the truth is good for us. Rarely is this so. Science. Art. Scholarship. All are quite unnatural activities; and though they have many beneficent side-effects the actual activity itself - the search for truth - may destroy ordinary human happiness. There is something of the psychopath in modern man.*

* When I speak of modern man I write about representative figures - the Scientist, the Bureaucrat, the Artist. Most men and women are hardly modern at all (just as there were few protestants in Protestant countries after the Reformation - Euan Cameron, The European Reformation; Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic; Patrick Collinson, The Protestant Religion: The Church in English Society 1559-1625; Collinson extremely good on the nuances of faith - there are so many levels of religious understanding; a man might believe himself Protestant, because he lives in a Protestant country and goes to a Protestant church, and yet all his beliefs are Catholic).

5.  It acts like a wise Christian.

But it is not enough, Fathers, to speak nothing but the truth, we must also not speak the whole truth, because we ought to bring up only those things which it is useful to reveal, and not those which could only cause pain without doing any good. As the first rule is to speak truthfully, the second then is to speak discreetly. (Blaise Pascal, The Provincial Letters)

The whole truth: love is dying. To speak discreetly: with faith love can be eternal (omitting: because the love object is absent).

6.  Atheism is a faith. It believes in the unprovable idea - and what is God but an idea? - that God does not exist. 

Atheism shares the super-rationality of religious discourse; indeed the main grounds for doubting the great monotheisms is precisely because of their too great reliance upon reason.*1 Although we must be careful, we must distinguish the Church from Christianity; the essence of the Christian religion feeling and mystic faith, which only exists in the elect, who are always a tiny minority, as Pascal notes in his The Provincial Letters; these letters using the beliefs of a sect - the Jansenists - to attack the social compromises of a supra-national organisation - the Jesuits. 

To encompass all of society the Church must be rational; it is the only way it can gain the adherence of the general public; the only means by which its rulers can actually run a large religious institution.*2 For a church to survive the Law must always trump Grace.*3

One of the curious aspects of Pascal’s letters is that whilst we side with him - he is David against Goliath - we also think that it is the Jesuits who are right; for to be popular the Church must compromise on doctrine; the real problem being their zealous theologians, who have gone too far, by compromising too much; these zealots, without the ballast of faith (we will not speak of wisdom or common sense), have caught the madness of reason, which becomes their measure of all things.*4

*1 Alfred N. Whitehead, Science and the Modern World.

*2 Nicely captured by R.W. Southern, in Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages.

*3 Patrick Collinson paints a more nuanced picture - the late 16th century Protestant church included an evangelical minority who would often antagonise local communities through their extremism. All churches will contain its sects of zealots (The Religion of Protestants: The Church in English Society 1559-1625).

*4 As Bertrand Russell notes, in Mysticism and Logic, reason is essentially a passive instrument; and so will tend to reflect - and then modify and complicate - the immediate cultural environment. A church embedded in society will use rationality to justify such an existence, which is primarily that of the layman; its reasoners can do little else.

† This is nicely illustrated in Pascal’s letters, where he satirises the Jesuit’s habit of mass citation and reliance on modern authors. Such practices were common to all forms of intellectual activity during this period (Robert Mandrou, From Humanism to Science, 1480-1700).

7. Bergman’s From the Life of the Marionettes depicts the obverse of such experiences - a couple trapped in a hermetically sealed world, where feeling is used not to unlock mystical delight (though there is a great yearning for this) but to smash down the barriers that prevent the free expression of emotion. Although an extreme case, Bergman’s film gives us an inkling into the joy of those characters who, because of the war, had escaped the emotional tepidity of conventional middle class relationships.

For the pre-war context Chatterton Square is useful. E.H. Young’s novel, set in the late thirties, shows a character finding it increasingly difficult to wear the middle-class mask of respectability. Challenged by his daughter and wife, and attracted to a neighbour, who is beautiful and sensually vital, he discovers that his control, both social - over his family - and psychological - over himself -, is collapsing. His wife, though quietly rebelling, prefers, interestingly, to continue wearing the mask of submissive female gentility; because it gives her a certain power and freedom within the marriage.


8.  Henry Green’s Back plays with these same ideas, but the result is very different: unable to deal with the death of a lover, the hero mixes up chance and order, and descends into paranoia, where he mistakes coincidence for conspiracy; his lover’s half-sister for herself. Reason has taken over, and has become an autocrat.*


* Autocrats are essential in art, science and scholarship. They are not so nice when they rule our daily lives.

9.  Greene is a master of casuistry.

10.  The difference in moral teaching between Hume and Rousseau is a wonderfully illuminating guide to the transformation that has taken place in modern times. For Hume - a throughly modern figure - morality stems from the senses, and is determined by pleasure and pain. Rousseau disagrees. For him, morality is essentially religious; the General Will both an idea and a moral force that binds people to a community and a concept (see my A Broken Fairy Tale).

11.  Although the origins of these ideas go a long way back - see the comments on suicide in Wilfrid Prest’s Albion Ascendant: English History 1660-1815.

12.  A.S. Byatt has noted the importance of eternity in the novels written during and just after the Second World War (On Histories and Stories: Selected Essays).

13.  Sarah’s decision to leave Bendrix may be a symbol of the psychological gap that exists in their personalities.

14.  Although if we take Bendrix literally his experiential life is memory and imagination - the present described in the book is actually the past. Of course, this is the writer in him;  the reality of the affair grasped only when it is over; for only then can the artist give it a form and a meaning.

15.  Is she a classic Don Juan figure?

16.  Compare with Stella in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day. War: is it good for women?

17.  One could do a thesis on this idea - war liberated women, who then felt the threat of a returning peace…

Only older, single women seem to have invested much social or emotional energy into their jobs.

This was partly due to the fact that the Second World War had comparatively little influence on the way women perceived their public lives, even it its effect was not negligible. For a woman like Nella Last it represented apparent liberation from her own fears and her husband’s ‘moods’. For others whose husbands were in the forces it provided a period of freedom from men and thus led to mixed feelings about demobilisation. Many single women and childless married women enjoyed war work and its sociability, and some had a sense of participating in a world-historical event - though few put it that way. (Ross Mckibbin, Culture and Classes: England 1918-1951)

E.H. Young’s Chatterton Square, published in 1947 and set in Bristol, also captures the atmosphere of female liberation from an oppressive masculine moral code (and the enervating vanity which this code produces in the egotistical patriarch).

18.  Would Greene call it efficacious grace? (See Pascal’s The Provincial Letters.)

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