The Public Image Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 23 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Public Image.
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The Public Image Summary & Study Guide Description

The Public Image Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The Public Image by Muriel Spark.

Annabel Christopher has just moved to Rome with her husband Frederick and her baby Carl. Prior to her relocation to Rome, Annabel was an unremarkable British actress for about ten years, but in the two years leading to her move to Italy, her acting career took off. Her film success began with a film entitled The House on the Piazza in which she was portrayed as an "English Tiger-Lady." Since this initial success, her public image has become that of the English Tiger-Lady. In accordance with this public image, Annabel leads a reserved public life with her devoted husband while she presumably enjoys a passionate sex life with him in private.

Frederick, who always resented Annabel and her public image, tries to destroy his wife's career and reputation. He arranges for rowdy partygoers to convene at his home on the evening on which he plans to commit suicide. Prior to committing suicide, he writes five suicide letters to his wife Annabel, his son Carl, his mother, his friend Billy and his mistress Marina. He sends the letter to Marina, but he leaves the remaining four amongst his possessions in his home. In the letters, he claims that his marriage was intolerable and he falsely accuses Annabel of being a wild party girl.

Frederick's suicide and the party to which Annabel reluctantly plays hostess could potentially ruin Annabel's reputation. The suicide indicates that Frederick was unhappy in his marriage to Annabel. Moreover, if the public discovers that Annabel hosted a rowdy party, she can no longer portray herself as an English lady who leads a composed and reserved life outside her marriage bed.

After Frederick's suicide, Annabel expends a great deal of energy trying to salvage her public image by suppressing news that he took his own life and by denying that she hosted a rowdy party in her home. Unfortunately, Frederick's friend Billy obtains copies of the four suicide letters that were left in the Christopher residence and he attempts to blackmail Annabel.

At a public inquest into the circumstances of Frederick's death, Annabel foils Billy's attempt to blackmail her by unexpectedly exposing the suicide letters herself. In doing so, she effectively allows her public image to be destroyed according to Frederick's plan. She gives up her acting career and her life in the public eye. Instead, she chooses a life of anonymity. She begins her new life by moving with her baby, Carl, to Greece where she is unrecognized and hopes to remain so.

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This section contains 411 words
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