A Handful of Dust - Chapter Three, Hard Cheese on Tony: Part One Summary & Analysis

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This section contains 836 words
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Chapter Three, Hard Cheese on Tony: Part One Summary

Tony is having dinner at Brat's Club when he sees Jock. At first Jock feels a little awkward with Tony, since everyone knows about Brenda's affair with John Beaver. Tony carries the conversation, rambling about all of the changes in Brenda of late. Tony and Jock continue drinking to try to lift their spirits. Tony gets a message at the club from Brenda. He asks the person delivering the message to speak with her, and even after insisting, he is turned down. It turns out that Brenda has made Beaver call Tony so she won't have to speak to him, but Tony calls her back directly. He is now drunk and insisting that he will bring Jock and visit her. When Brenda can't talk him out of it, she calls the club to speak with Jock. Jock dryly agrees to keep Tony from visiting Brenda's flat. She isn't convinced that he is on her side so she tells Beaver to leave just in case.

Tony and Jock leave Brat's Club and decide that they are not ready to end their night. They decide to go to a "low joint"; a place where they can drink for the remainder of the night. Once inside, they make their way through the crowded dance floor and order brandy. Two women, who are either escorts or prostitutes named Milly and Babs join them. In his drunken state, Tony calls Brenda and wakes her up to tell her that he won't visit her after all. The two go back and forth on the subject of visiting Brenda, each changing their minds continually as to whether the visit made sense at the late hour.

The next day, Tony is ridden with guilt for behaving in a foolish manner toward Brenda. As he is wondering if he should call, Brenda calls him. She admits that she was upset with him for all of the calls the night before but is no longer angry with him. Brenda also informs him that she won't have any time to see him before he returns to Hetton. Secretly Brenda is taking full advantage of the guilt Tony feels for misbehaving and enjoys the position he is in. He takes the train back home and finds that John Andrew has come to the station to meet him. Tony is heavy with guilt and disappointment for not seeing Brenda and lashes out at John Andrew a little. Tony spends the remainder of the evening in solitude—informing one of the staff that he will take his meals in the library when Brenda is out of town.

Chapter Three, Hard Cheese on Tony: Part One Analysis

The reader has already been given a glimpse at the mindset of the women in this social group. Tony and Jock's night together gives an inside look at what the men in this society do with their time and go through with their women. "It is not uncommon at Brat's Club, between nine and ten in the evening, to find men in white ties and tail coats sitting by themselves and eating, in evident low spirits, large and extravagant dinners. They are those who have been abandoned at the last minute by their women". The women are selfish and indulgent, impervious to the outcome of their actions. Brenda, on the night of Tony and Jock's adventure, fits these criteria perfectly. She is angry that Tony has come to London to surprise her and ruin her night with Beaver. The men on the other hand provide the means for their women's indulgence and take the brunt of their selfishness. The description of the scene at the Brat's club isn't the only mention of the man and women dynamic of this group. "You're married, aren't you . . . your friend is too. You'd be surprised how many gentlemen come here just to talk about their wives".

The precedence for the chapter title is also established. "Hard Cheese on Tony" is the title and through it, the reader receives a hint that Tony is the character who will end up on the losing end of Brenda's affair. Tony spends the chapter convincing himself and anyone who will listen that he is fine with Brenda's decision to take an economics class and spend weekdays in London, rather than at home with him. Tony ends this segment ridden with guilt, essentially for going out with a friend and having a bit too much to drink. Meanwhile, Brenda had plans to spend the night with another man and carries on guilt free and is sure enough in her righteousness that she offers her decisions as a lesson. "He [Tony] had to learn not make surprise visits". Beaver's response offers support for Brenda's mindset; "You are one for making people learn things". The irony in the statement is that Brenda is the only one who actually has a moral lesson that needs learning.

This section contains 836 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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