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Quotes

Quote #1

"Somehow, when that kind of man looks frightened it is too awful. It is all right for us to be frightened, or for men of another sort--Father, for instance; but for men like that! When I saw all the others so placid, and Paul mad with terror in case I said the wrong thing, I felt for a moment that the whole Wilcox family was a fraud, just a wall of newspapers and motor-cars and golf-clubs, and that if it fell I should find nothing behind it but panic and emptiness." (4.6)

Here, Helen proposes one of the problems of the novel – what makes a man a real man? The Wilcoxes, she suggests, are different from the sort of men they know, like their father or poor Tibby. There's something about the Wilcoxes that set them up as paragons of masculinity, and when that façade is cracked (by Paul's fear), it all breaks down.

Quote #2

Tibby was sensitive to beauty, the experience was new, and he gave a description of his visit that was almost glowing. The august and mellow University, soaked with the richness of the western counties that it has served for a thousand years, appealed at once to the boy's taste: it was the kind of thing he could understand, and he understood it all the better because it was empty. Oxford is--Oxford: not a mere receptacle for youth, like Cambridge. Perhaps it wants its inmates to love it rather than to love one another: such at all events was to be its effect on Tibby. His sisters sent him there that he might make friends, for they knew that his education had been cranky, and had severed him from other boys and men. He made no friends. His Oxford remained Oxford empty, and he took into life with him, not the memory of a radiance, but the memory of a colour scheme. (12.9)

This image of Tibby and his very special Tibby-ness is quite at odds with the other men – namely, the Wilcox men – that we encounter in the novel. Tibby provides a kind of foil to the image of strong, pragmatic, active manliness we see elsewhere; he's disconnected from everyday life to the umpteenth degree, and it renders him unmanly and oddly asexual.

Quote #3

I believe that in the last century men have developed the desire for work, and they must not starve it. It's a new desire. It goes with a great deal that's bad, but in itself it's good, and I hope that for women, too, 'not to work' will soon become as shocking as 'not to be married' was a hundred years ago. (13.7)

The speaker here is Margaret, and she's addressing the recalcitrant Tibby, who just doesn't want to have a job. Her comment makes clear her stance on men and their proper pursuits (work), but also on what she hopes women will become sometime soon – hardworking members of society.

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