Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Finished for the day...

...so here's another post. This isn't really thesis material as such- I need to edit it down, and it's descriptive rather than analytical- but here's a plot summary of Concluding, the novel I'm currently trying to nail.


On a misty morning, shortly before sunrise, an old man draws back the shutters of his window and, peering out through fog at his small and dissimilar menagerie, predicts that it will be ‘a fine day in the end'. The man is Rock, a retired scientist who has, in the dimly remembered past, elaborated a great and influential theory: the novel leaves the finer points of this discovery unclear, but it seems to be connected to the treatment of disease in pigs. Rock is domiciled in a cottage tithed to a ‘State’ educational institute- England has submitted to a bureaucratic coup-d’etat- run by Misses Edge and Baker, whose slight aspirations towards the draconian are softened by their almost all-encompassing obliviousness to the various intrigues which take place almost underneath their noses. The school is attended by several hundred girls, all of whose names unaccountably begin with the letter ‘M’. On this particular day, an evening dance is to be held at the school in commemoration of the institute’s, or the state’s, founders. However, as Edge and Baker take breakfast in preparation for a short trip to London, where they are regularly summoned to attend State meetings, it is discovered that Mary and Merode, two of the students, have absconded. Strange, echoing voices ring out in the woods surrounding the school.

Meanwhile, more details about Rock’s situation are revealed. Edge and Baker covet his cottage, which he shares with his granddaughter Elizabeth, who is recovering from a nervous breakdown. The mistresses hope to transfer it to a new char or caretaker. Rock, who is due to be acknowledged by an elite scientific academy- an accolade which would entitle him, but not Elizabeth, to a new home- is resistant to the ‘Byzantine’ machinations Edge and Baker make to oust him.

Rumours also circulate about the sexual proclivities of some of the adult males at the school: George Adams, the woodsman; Sebastian Birt, an economics tutor with whom Elizabeth Rock is romantically entangled; and Rock himself. It is implied that one of the three may have played a part in the disappearances. Then Elizabeth and Birt chance upon the fallen and injured Merode whilst enjoying a tryst in the wood and take her to Rock’s cottage. Although pressed, both here and back at the school, Merode refuses to reveal the motive for her actions or the whereabouts of Mary.

The hour of the dance approaches and Elizabeth and Rock equivocate over whether or not they should attend. A policeman continues the searching of the grounds, including, ominously, the vicinity of the lake. Mary, however, does not reappear and the girls, who speculate amongst themselves about her fate, stubbornly resist aiding the inquiry. Night draws in, and the dance begins. Edge waltzes with the girls, and Rock is twice led by a girl called Moira into a disused cellar beneath the school in which a secret society of the senior girls meets. Eventually, he is drawn into Edge’s sanctum for a curiously amiable conversation in which Edge seems to offer him her hand in marriage. This hitherto unrevealed good-naturedness means that Rock has won the battle, if not the war, and returns to the cottage, with Elizabeth as his escort, as the voices of those seeking Mary echo across the darkened campus.

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