A Handful of Dust - Study Guide Chapter Four, English Gothic II: Part Two Summary & Analysis

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Chapter Four, English Gothic II: Part Two Summary

Two detectives arrive first at the meeting point for Tony and Milly. They have been paid to follow Tony and Milly for the weekend as witnesses to the affair. Tony and Jock arrive next and buy the train tickets for Tony and Milly to get to the seaside hotel in Brighton. Tony is already upset about the whole plan and becomes more annoyed when he realizes that Milly has brought her daughter, ignoring his firm forbidding. When the strange group of people starts bringing attention to themselves, Tony agrees to let Tony join them just to avoid a scene. When they arrive at the hotel, Winnie insists she must go down to the sea even though it is already dark. Tony encourages the outing just to get rid of the two and is happy for the male company when he runs into the detectives at the bar. Tony is clearly upset about having to carry on the entire weekend and he tries to get an idea from the detectives how husbands usually cope. Tony's job for the weekend is one that they see often, but they warn him about the child causing problems for the impression they are trying to leave.

On the way to dinner, Milly comes across an acquaintance named Dan and his lady, who he only calls "Baby". They are checking in to the hotel but stop to have a few drinks with Tony and Milly before heading to their room. At dinner, Tony has a hard time relating to Milly and finding conversation. As the end of dinner nears and Tony wonders how they will spend the remainder of their night, Dan reappears and invites them a party. The next morning, Tony is annoyed when Winnie wakes him up. Tony had already realized that there was not arguing with the persistent child, so he gets dressed and after taking Winnie down to see the water, eats breakfast with her.

When Tony sends Winnie back up to the room, one of the detectives approaches. He chastises Tony a bit for going to the party the previous night and for having breakfast early and without Milly or the detectives present. They are counting on servants and other staff as witnesses to the affair. Tony agrees to have breakfast again, this time in bed. He wakes Milly and puts on a robe to give the servant bringing their meal the impression that they were in the middle of intimacy. After the food is brought, Milly goes back to sleep and Winnie resumes her request to bathe in the sea. Winnie can't understand why Tony had breakfast brought to the room after eating with her downstairs and talks incessantly about it. People around them start to speak of Tony as a reckless and strange father.

Tony's weekend farce is a success and Brenda makes her case that she started studying in London and Tony started drinking. She details his drunken behavior with Jock, followed by information about his affair.

Chapter Four, English Gothic II: Part Two Analysis

The set up of Tony's infidelity is a complex one that Tony refers to as "the Law". It is actually strange to see a group of characters so shallow and indulgent in direct contact with anything concrete such as the law. The only mention that appears structural is when Allan's occupation is highlighted and the random reminder of Jock and his speech on pigs. These two references as well as the framework of the Law in this segment become absorbed into the antics surrounding the characters. The law no longer appears to be the law when a man who has been publicly embarrassed by his wife's betrayal has to further the shame by faking an affair of his own. Regardless of the angle that life turns, Tony is judged and condemned at every turn. The detectives tell him that he isn't behaving right; they are clearly accustomed to customers who are seasoned in the art of divorce. Milly doesn't like his attitude, although he is simply behaving how he always has with his wife. Finally, strangers even judge him for mistreating a child that isn't his. The reader was under the impression that perhaps Tony's luck would turn, but it is clear that things will continue to get worse for him. Brenda's statement to the court reads, "My studies took me to London. I realized that he no loner cared for me as he used to. He began drinking heavily . . . from then onwards I had him watched by private agents and as a result of what they told me, I left my husband's house . . ." There is a glimmer of hope that Brenda may turn things around because for a moment she even finds the statement to the court a little excessive.

This section contains 809 words
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