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

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Chapter Four, English Gothic II: Part Three Summary

Reggie, Brenda's older brother, hears of Brenda's affair and returns home to organize a family meeting. After speaking with Brenda, his mother, Marjorie, Allan, and the lawyer in the meeting he meets with Beaver, Jock, and even one of Tony's aunts before setting up time to see Tony. After pointing out that he doesn't like Beaver, Reggie tries to convince Tony to refuse Brenda's divorce. Tony is surprised to hear that Brenda is spreading the rumor that he had become an alcoholic and had an affair with Jenny Abdul Akbar. He relays that Brenda is now asking for two thousand dollars a year, throwing out their agreement for five hundred. The payment amount would mean that Tony would have to give up his estate at Hetton. Reggie tops off the demands by informing Tony that Beaver doesn't even want to be with Brenda unless she is provided for. The conversation takes a turn here as Reggie points out that with the evidence against him, Brenda would win her two thousand annual fund in the courts regardless, hoping to push Tony into settling.

Tony calls Brenda to make sure that she is aware of where Reggie stands on the matter and that she is asking the same of him. When she affirms that she knows that he will have to leave Hetton to afford her settlement, he hangs up on her and returns to Reggie. Tony responds that the claims against him are ridiculous and that he is going away for six months. If Brenda still wants the divorce at that time he will grant it without settlements of any kind. Polly and the rest of Brenda's group are livid about Tony's behavior when they hear what has happened.

Chapter Four, English Gothic II: Part Three Analysis

This segment is a remarkable one because it the first that ends with a triumphant tone for Tony. Tony has listened to advice from people who never cared enough to mention to Brenda that her affair was completely unfair to Tony. These people offered him options, all bordering the same logic and idiocy of what looks right to everyone else in their circle of society. Reggie St. Cloud was the final person to offer advice before Tony realizes that he has some control over the situation and uses this power. Tony's last words to Reggie are so empowering, they almost seem like a different man from the one who has been wronged since the opening of this plot. The uncharacteristic defiance of displayed in this encounter may be a sign that Tony's small victory will be short lived. Nonetheless, Tony establishes the upper hand and even the summary of his behavior as ruthless cannot undermine his position for this moment.

This key section of the chapter highlights the family dynamic of this group. Brenda's mother is only mentioned briefly throughout the story, and finally members other than Marjorie are brought to life. The introduction of the St. Cloud family unit offers a new contrast to the make up of the women and men in Brenda's circle. Aside from Brenda, in the St. Cloud family, the women are clear-minded and logical. Both Lady St. Cloud and Marjorie know that Brenda is being foolish and cold-hearted. Meanwhile the men, Reggie and Allan, are gossiping, greedy, and shallow. The roles in Brenda's society circle are flipped. Unfortunately for the logical characters like Tony and Marjorie, in both the family and social settings, the shallow minds are the ones in control.

This section contains 589 words
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