|Studying J.B. Priestley's Time and the Conways|
This guide is written for teachers and students who are studying J.B. Priestley's play Time and the Conways. The guide is written specifically for students in the UK, but I hope it may be helpful to users from other parts of the world. Time and the Conways is sometimes set as a text for assessed work in drama for English and English literature exams. It may also be studied for teacher-assessed coursework in English in Key Stages 3 and 4 (GCSE reading).
What happens in Time and the Conways?
On the surface Time and the Conways appears to tell the story of a group of young people whose hopes of happiness are frustrated - by their own mistakes or by the interference of others. At a deeper level, the play explores the idea whether happiness is possible, and whether we can change the course of our lives.
The play is concerned very much with the author's ideas about time, but the structure of the play shows the relation between different periods in the characters' lives, by presenting these in an odd time-sequence: the first and last acts take place in a short continuous period on the same day, while the second act occurs nineteen years later to the day (Kay's birthday). To understand how the promise of the first act has led to the unhappiness of the second, we are given further information in the third act, which makes this clear.
That Kay Conway is the pivotal character in the drama appears in four ways:
This act (like Act Three) takes place on an autumn evening in 1919 (the year after the end of the First World War). A party is being held in a semi-detached villa in Newlingham, the home of the Conway family. The party is for Kay Conway's twenty-first birthday.
The action we see is set in a family living-room (not the formal drawing-room where the guests are assembled). A game of charades is being played, and the six Conway children and their widowed mother appear as they find costume and props, and prepare their lines, before going (off-stage) into the drawing-room to perform the charade. In the course of this act, a number of their guests also appear: in fact the whole cast (save for Carol in Act Two) is on stage at some time in each of the three acts. Although Priestley gives information in the stage directions about the ages of all of the characters, this is not wholly clear to the audience: apart from Carol, all the Conway children are in their twenties, and they seem to have been born about a year apart: Alan is the eldest, then come Madge, Robin, Hazel, Kay and Carol.
The first two characters we meet are Carol (who is about sixteen) and her elder sister, Hazel, who is notable for her beauty: they are discussing the charade they are about to perform, and we learn that today is Kay's birthday, and that Mr. Conway died by drowning some years ago. After a brief appearance by Alan, the eldest (Act Two; p. 58) of Mrs. Conway's children, Madge, the next eldest, arrives with information about a guest, who is to take part in the charade: this is Ernest Beevers, a business associate of Gerald Thornton; Gerald is a solicitor to whom Madge is attracted. Kay appears, to organize the charade, followed by her mother.
We learn of other guests who do not appear in the play, and of Robin, the younger son: he has been in the RAF, but is due to be "demobbed" (return to civilian life). Robin is his mother's favourite and she is disappointed by his absence (so far) from the party. Alan reappears with Joan Helford. Joan is a rather foolish but pleasant young woman, who is Hazel's friend. Alan is attentive to Joan, but she evidently finds him dull company.
Their conversation contrasts strongly with that of Madge and Gerald, who now come on stage. Madge and Gerald argue about the miners' strike in support of their campaign for nationalization. Though Madge and Gerald hold differing views they both enjoy this kind of heated political debate.
Lastly, Beevers comes on stage: he is introduced to the Conways by Gerald. Though ambitious, he is evidently from a less privileged background. Learning that Mrs. Conway has been offered £5,000 for her house, he suggests (to Hazel) that she should accept this offer. Hazel, in whom (like many other young men, apparently) he is most interested snubs him and his departure is followed by rude comments from both Hazel and Joan.
We learn from her conversation with Hazel, that Kay hopes to be a novelist. Hazel quotes, mockingly, from Kay's unpublished novel, The Garden of Stars. Carol reappears with Beevers (to whom she is friendly) and Gerald. The cast is completed by the arrival of Robin. He is wearing his RAF officer's uniform, and is full of plans for making his fortune; he is evidently attracted to Joan.
Mrs. Conway, who is an accomplished singer, is now expected to entertain the guests, and the other characters follow her off stage, except for Kay and Carol, who speak of their ambitions.
Eventually Carol rejoins the party, leaving Kay alone on stage, listening to the singing from the drawing-room; she appears to be staring "not at but into something" as the act ends. In one sense nothing very much has happened in this act, but Priestley has introduced us to his main characters and their situation, in readiness for what is to come.
At first it appears that nothing has changed. We see Kay sitting in the same place as at the end of Act One, but as the lights come up we see that she is older, and we realize that time has passed. In fact it is nineteen years later (Kay's 40th birthday, in 1938 [1937 is given in the text of the play, but this would make Kay 39]). The details of the various characters' lives emerge from their conversation.
Kay is now a fairly successful journalist, but she has not fulfilled her ambition of writing novels. Mrs. Conway has asked her children to come to discuss her financial affairs. Kay has arrived first, while Alan appears never to have left home. Next to arrive is Joan, who has married Robin. She has children, but has been deserted by her husband. While she is out of the room, we learn that Alan was once in love with her. Joan is a weak woman but Robin's treatment, as Alan notes, has made her even more foolish.
Madge arrives, explaining that she has only come because she was in the neighbourhood, being interviewed for a job as headmistress of a girls' school. She insists that she has no connection with the person she once was, and dismisses Alan's attempt to contradict her: at the end of the act he will explain his ideas to Kay.
When Hazel arrives we are surprised to learn that she has married Ernest; he is now very prosperous, and dominates Hazel, who is afraid of him. She has been in touch with Robin, who has threatened to look in on the gathering.
When Mrs. Conway appears she is full of criticism: for Joan and Hazel, because they are weak, and for Madge because she is an old maid. Though Kay has not married, she has had affairs and is still attractive, and Mrs. Conway now favours her. She is contemptuous of her bachelor son, Alan.
Gerald, who has come to explain Mrs. Conway's financial affairs to the family, arrives in the company of Ernest. It emerges that Mrs. Conway has an overdraft at the bank. Her income is from property (which needs renovation) and shares (which have fallen in value). The large amount of money left her by her husband, supposedly in trust for all the children, has been used up, apparently trying to help Robin in his various failed business schemes. Madge is furious, not least because she was refused help by Mrs. Conway when she tried to buy a partnership in a school.
It is at this point that we learn, from a remark of Mrs. Conway's about flowers on the grave (put there by Alan), that Carol has died (two years after the events of Act One). Beevers, who has remained silent while Gerald has explained about the family's finances, now remarks that Carol was the best of the lot "worth all the rest of you put together"; though she despises Ernest, Mrs. Conway agrees with this verdict.
Robin arrives, once more half-way into the act; he has no shame at his many failings, and is still sponging off others. Ernest makes it clear that he will not help the family out (he has the money and, as he points out, he is not tight-fisted, but he is taking his revenge for being patronised in the past); Robin cannot resist scoring a point, and hints to Beevers that he has had some of Ernest's money - from Hazel. Robin threatens Ernest who is not at all intimidated, but it is Mrs. Conway who actually strikes him. Ernest leaves, with Hazel following, and there is no doubt that she is to suffer for Robin's boast and her mother's hot-headed conduct.
Before she leaves, Madge makes clear her real argument with her mother: years before, she claims, she had a chance of happiness with Gerald, but this was dashed by her mother's behaviour: the very thing for which Mrs. Conway condemns Madge (being unmarried) is her own fault. Mrs. Conway retreats to her room upstairs to talk with her favourite, the spoilt Robin, while Madge says goodbye to Kay, who is left alone with Alan.
The explanation Madge refused to hear is now given to Kay: Alan quotes some lines from William Blake's Auguries of Innocence, and explains his theory of time: it is not, as Kay has feared, "a great devil" but "only a kind of dream" and people are not its victims but "immortal beings" and "in for a tremendous adventure".
In this act, we find the solution to the puzzles posed in the previous act, why certain choices have been made for the worse. Kay is in the same place as she was at the end of both previous acts, with Alan again, but we are back in 1919: Kay has awoken from a kind of dream - it is as if she has had a glimpse of her own future.
As Kay goes to say goodbye to her guests, Hazel is talking with Alan. When Ernest comes to speak to Hazel she is uneasy and begs Alan to stay but he feels he should leave them alone. Ernest asks permission to call on Hazel, and she is unable to refuse, even though she dislikes him - already we can see how he is stronger than her, and will control her in the future.
Madge is angry with Robin for working on the railway to break the railwaymen's strike; he just sees being a blackleg (strike-breaker) as a big joke. Robin also manages to snub Beevers for being a non-combatant in the Army Pay Corps, but Carol is considerate to Ernest, who sees her goodness. Gerald advises Mrs. Conway not to sell her house, as he thinks it will gain in value: at this point she has plenty of money and no financial worries.
Robin suggests playing "Hide and Seek" - he wishes to be alone in the dark with Joan; at first Alan follows her but she insists that he leave her (she hopes Robin will find her). Madge (who quotes Blake's poem popularly known as Jerusalem) and Gerald have a heated debate about politics; though he argues against her, he is genuinely moved by her intelligent and fiery speech: Mrs. Conway sees this, is jealous, and ridicules Madge, and the moment is lost (it is this of which Madge accuses her mother in Act Two).
Hazel predicts a bright future for herself, married to a tall handsome man and living outside Newlingham, while Robin forecasts great things for himself (he has no idea what). Mrs. Conway now takes it upon herself to predict her children's futures: it is clear that she does not really know or value them, and the audience sees that her ideas are all mistaken. Carol joins in the predictions - at first she says, ironically, only that she wants "to live".
Kay is horrified by what is going on, as if she can see how wrong they all are, and shouts: "Don't!" At this, Carol takes back what she has said, and promises only to look after Kay, wherever she goes (a prediction that we can see as fulfilled at the end of Act Two, where Alan helps Kay understand what has happened in her life).
This act ends with a request from Kay to Alan to tell her something she thinks he knows. She quotes, in part and confusedly, the lines from Blake which Alan has spoken in Act Two. Mrs. Conway dismisses Kay's fears, patronisingly, as "all this birthday excitement". But once again, the act concludes with Kay and Alan together on the stage. He cannot yet tell her what she wants to hear (he does not, after all, know it himself yet - it is she alone who has correctly, if vaguely, foreseen the future). But he promises that one day "there will be - something" that he can tell her.
Happy families in Time and the Conways
The play explores this theme both in terms of the three-act structure and in the detail of the relationships we see presented on stage. It is in fact, clearly articulated by Kay in what is certainly the part of the play most crucial to our understanding:
"Oh, silly girl of Nineteen Nineteen! Oh, lucky girl!...Remember what we once were and what we thought we'd be. And now this. And it's all we have, Alan, it's us. Every step we've taken - every tick of the clock - making everything worse."
(Act Two; p. 59, Penguin edition)
In terms of the play's structure, then, first we see a promising situation; next, we see what it becomes; and, finally, as we wonder how and why things go wrong, we see that things are already less than perfect in the life of the seemingly happy family.
We can now consider this in more detail. Act One shows us the family we all wish to belong to: the Conways have had their share of hardship - they have been through the danger and sacrifice of the Great War, and Mr. Conway has drowned. But they have stuck together, their mother loves them, they are not rich but very comfortable (more so than many in their audience) and the children are talented and ambitious. Their home is naturally welcoming (the party makes this more emphatic) and they have friends who can enrich their lives. We do not expect things to be perfect, so the failings of the characters seem trivial or innocent at this point. Robin is unreliable and a little spoiled; Madge is too serious (she has what he lacks) and Hazel is vain. Joan is silly and Gerald is in danger of becoming a dull bachelor. But it is Alan, of whom Mrs. Conway disapproves. He is outwardly unfashionable and has no great worldly ambition; but he is the happiest with his lot, and already the wisest of the children, though only Kay has much inkling of this. Yet these objections will hardly occur to an audience; the effect of Act One is to inspire admiration for this wonderful family and envy of their finding the secret of happiness.
So what are the ambitions they harbour? Kay says of Alan (p. 19) that he "has no ambition at all" and he agrees: "Not much", though Kay rightly suspects that he is deeper than he lets on: "I believe he has tremendous long adventures inside his head that nobody knows anything about". Madge has political and academic aspirations: she wants to inspire social change while pursuing a career as a scholar at the highest level. Robin has "all sorts of plans" (p. 30) though they are not so much plans as whimsical ideas; his practical planning has not gone beyond buying some smart clothes (in this he can be contrasted with Ernest, who is not yet wealthy, but spends little on his dress, while putting his money into buying a share in a paper-mill; p. 64). Hazel's aspirations are social; she is a noted local beauty and hopes to make an advantageous marriage (she explains this more fully in Act Three, but in Act One we see that for the moment she and Joan are simply looking for a good time). It is Kay whose ambition seems most difficult of fulfilment, as she wishes to be a famous novelist, but she has already done something about it, writing The Garden of Stars Judging from Hazel's quotation, this novel is literate if full of romantic clichés; it is not serious enough for Kay, who has torn up the manuscript. Carol's ambitions are not made clear in this act, but she seems, like Alan, very contented with life already.
It is in Act Three that the seeds are sown of the characters' future unhappiness: and it is because we already know (having seen Act Two) how different their future is to be from what they expect, that this Act is so painful to witness. Priestley's skill as a playwright also appears in the way in which he has shown us in the previous act what to look out for here.
Alan's retreat into the dull life of a shabby town hall clerk follows his disappointment in love: he is in love with Joan, and his stability and patience might enable her to achieve domestic happiness. Alan follows Joan as the game of "Hide and Seek" begins, but she begs him to leave, as she is attracted to the dashing but worthless Robin; she is infatuated with him but cannot see that they are ill-matched - she is too weak to sort him out, and he will not accept his responsibility as a husband or father: Mrs. Conway is pleased by the courtship as she is incapable of seeing her younger son's failings.
At the end of Act Three Robin announces (p. 78) his intention of being a "famous something-or-other". That Robin will not achieve much is indicated by his belief that success can be won without "starting at the bottom of the ladder". He will one day, (p. 53) ridicule Ernest for doing this: "Don't begin to tell us now that you landed here with only a shilling in your pocket" but Ernest does not make this boast. Robin is ridiculing a stereotype of which the best-known fictional example is probably Mr. Bounderby in Hard Times. Robin's predictions for his own future always return to making lots of money; his curse is that he is greedy for gain, but useless in business - not only does he fail miserably to earn more money than Kay or Hazel's future husband (as he boasts that he will on p. 79), but he uses up the other children's inheritance and comes to rely on handouts, from Hazel, of Beevers' money.
Madge has already accused her mother of spoiling her hopes of happiness (p. 57; note that she uses the metaphor of sowing: "A seed is easily destroyed, but it might have grown into an oak tree"). This enables us to see the significance of an apparently trivial intervention by Mrs. Conway (p. 74) where she ridicules Madge's appearance and Socialist beliefs, accusing her of "boring poor Gerald". Madge becomes an embittered old maid, successful (to a point) in her work but (as Mrs. Conway spitefully points out; p. 55) having no idea of "what a woman's real life is like". But she is not the only one harmed by Mrs. Conway: Gerald has become "drier and harder", in Kay's words (p. 45) "like all those Newlingham men rolled into one" - a fate from which Madge could have saved him, and which, though he claims not to remember saying this, he had determined would never befall him.
Hazel's future is also fixed in Act Three. Though she speaks of marrying a tall "rather good-looking man about five or six years older" than herself, travelling the world or living in London, she has already met her husband. He has decided this, and she is powerless to resist - the only thing she gets almost right is his age. Ernest is attracted to Hazel sexually and socially (she will be a status symbol for a successful businessman) and because he can dominate her. He recognizes that Carol is a better person, and she seems, despite her youth, better able to stand up to him (p. 67). Marrying Hazel is Ernest's choice, and he is at least honest enough to accept responsibility for his choice (p. 50: "I got the one I wanted") but they are not well-matched and rapidly assume the rôles of bully and victim. Ironically her journalist sister enters the fashionable world Hazel always hoped to live in.
Mrs. Conway is presented initially as an ideal mother. In 1919, she is still an attractive woman, as we see when she flirts with Gerald. She joins in the charade, and is a very good singer. She has overcome her grief at her husband's death and found comfort in the love of her many children, whose ambitions she encourages and whose talents she nurtures. But she is subsequently shown to have poor judgement, and her ideas of how her children should live their lives is revealed as an unfair burden of expectation.
She ridicules Alan because he is outwardly unremarkable, but fails to see what goes on beneath the surface. We learn that Alan (p. 58) was his father's favourite: Mr. Conway shared with Alan, Kay and Carol a serious and reflective side, which his wife never understood. Mrs. Conway has an idea of Madge (p. 79) as not marrying but becoming a headmistress; this is her idea, not Madge's, and she has already acted decisively to bring it about. Ironically, Madge will later defend what she has become, while Mrs. Conway will attack her for being an old maid - the audience sees that Mrs. Conway's judgement is wrong in Act Three, while Madge will later try to forget her disappointed hopes. Mrs. Conway is indulgent with Robin, when he most needs plain speaking and discipline; at first he is spoiled as a pet, but later Mrs. Conway will use up the inheritance held in trust for all the children and overdraw her bank account to fund Robin's business failures. Mrs. Conway encourages Robin's courtship of Joan; she disapproves of Beevers, but does little to help Hazel. In fact she outdoes her treacherous son in provoking Ernest to punish Hazel for sending Robin money (p. 54). She does less harm to Kay, possibly because Kay moves away from her influence.
Ernest cruelly characterizes Carol's death as an escape: "Didn't surprise me when she went off like that. Out! Finish! Too good to last", but his jest may seem to the audience to have some truth in it, when we (later in the play; p. 81) hear Carol's promise to Kay, and when we recall her closeness to her father, who has also made his exit. Mr. Conway has provided well for his widow; the advice Gerald gives her not to sell her house seems good sense, but in the light of her mismanagement of her other funds appears less wise than Ernest's more cautious idea of selling while she can gain a good price (£5,000 in 1919 would approximate at least to several hundreds of thousands today). Typically, she blames Gerald, rather than herself or Robin, for the mismanagement of her affairs.
The choices Kay makes, which lead to her discontentedness in Act Two, occur later: we learn of them only from her comments in this act. She differs from most of the others, in that she has a chance of changing things, as Alan explains. Carol has promised (p. 81) that she will never leave Kay, but will look after her wherever she goes. At the end of the play we have a sense of how, in the future Carol will keep her word, as Kay is guided to Alan for help: he will show her that Time is not a "great devil" and it isn't "beating us" (p. 60). We have seen characters (p. 61) "snatch and grab and hurt each other" but Alan urges Kay to "take a long view", as if we are "immortal beings" and "in for a great adventure" (a word Kay earlier used of Alan's secret thoughts (p. 19).
Thus, although we have seen the frustration of the hopes of most of the characters, we realize that Alan has come to a philosophical acceptance of life's hardships, while Kay has a real prospect of a new start.
The ages of the characters
As this is a play, the ages of the characters, in so far as these are important, are suggested by the appearance, speech and actions of the players. However, Priestley has given further information, either in the dialogue, or in the stage-directions to indicate the characters' ages. It may be helpful to students of the play to use this summary of all the information.
By far the most important information is the setting of the action on Kay's twenty-first and fortieth birthdays: this will not be missed by the audience as it is repeatedly stated, and reflected in the action (a birthday party, giving of presents, speculation about whether Robin will forget it, and so on). As the first act is dated precisely (references to the war, demobbing and strikes) in 1919 (Kay actually recalls the year at the end of Act Two; see p. 59) the author's statement that Act Two is set "at the present time (1937)" must be an approximation: the action is set a year ahead of the first date of performance (this, of course, is no longer a problem).
The audience will quickly form an idea of Mrs. Conway's children as being very close in their ages; only the most attentive will note more precise statements, as that Alan is forty-four on Kay's fortieth birthday, or that Carol died seventeen years before this (i.e. two years after Act One). That a woman might bear five children is as many years (there is a bigger gap between Kay and Carol) would be perfectly commonplace in the 1930s. In a less comfortable family there would be more likelihood of children dying in infancy; as it is, Carol dies in her teens of a sudden illness (her symptoms and failed treatment suggest a burst appendix, but the detail is vague and not important; the audience will be familiar with similar occurrences, and accept Mrs. Conway's account readily enough).
Making use of information from any act, and either adding or subtracting nineteen years (between twenty-first and fortieth birthdays), we gain the following information:
* Hazel is said to be the same age as Joan. Numbers in bold are Priestley's indications of age in the dialogue or stage-directions.
As this is a play, what matters here most is the audience's general impression of a family whose initial closeness as a group reflects their closeness in age. But there is more definite information, for attentive audiences, in the case of the important matters of dating. This is established by Priestley's setting the acts in different years but on the same day of the year, and introducing a simple device (Kay's birthday) to remind us of this.
The GCSE syllabus requires you to produce a comparative study of two texts, related by theme, subject or in some other way. One of these must be a prose work, written before 1914, by a writer from a short list of classic authors (published in the 2000 revision of the National Curriculum); this must be compared with any work(s) by a major author writing after 1914. To satisfy the examiners' requirements, you should look at each work in some detail, and make comparisons between them. Remember that Dickens is a novelist and Priestley a dramatist or playwright; don't confuse reader and audience! And spell the authors' names correctly.
Happy families in Hard Times and Time and the Conways
You are asked to discuss these two works in terms of the authors' exploration of ideas about happy families. You will have received detailed study guides which show you how to write about this theme in each work. As you write about either book, you should be ready to make any brief points of comparison about the other text which may occur to you as you write. When you have written about each work, you should make a fuller comparison; there is no single right way of doing this, but you may wish to consider some or all of the following:
Reaping and sowing
This metaphor is in the titles of the three parts of Hard Times and also applies to Time and the Conways. It is used by Madge in Act Two (p. 57) when she speaks of a seed which was never allowed to grow.
Briefly show how both authors represent people as reaping what they sow, and how far it may be possible to escape the consequences of one's earlier actions. Another way of doing this would be to consider the stories in terms of past and present: the present consequences of past actions.
Louisa and Sissy and Kay and Alan (and perhaps Carol, too)
Each work has a central figure (Louisa Gradgrind and Kay Conway) who makes mistakes but seeks to put things right. Each is helped in her attempt to do this, by the wisdom and goodness of another person (Sissy Jupe and Alan Conway). Both Sissy and Alan are characters whose goodness is apparent to the reader or audience long before others in the story notice it, if they ever do.
What is your view of the way these central characters are presented, and the way we share their discovery of what is right? In another way, you might compare Sissy's depiction as the "guardian angel" of the Gradgrinds, with Carol's promise to look after Kay, perhaps fulfilled at the end of Act Two of Time and the Conways.
Mr. Gradgrind has a wife, for much of the story of Hard Times, but she never interferes in his "system" of bringing up his children. We know that Mr. Conway has very different ideas from his wife, and the children have not been brought up in ways that help them to develop their own best qualities. Rather, they have been forced to become what Mr. Gradgrind/Mrs. Conway want them to be, either accepting this and being unhappy, or rebelling against it, and still being unhappy.
Comment on how well, in your view, these parents bring up their children. Who would you rather have as your father or mother? Note the significant difference, that Mr. Gradgrind sees his mistake and changes, very much for the better, while we have no reason to suppose that Mrs. Conway ever does this.
The villains of the pieces
Some of the less attractive characters in Time and the Conways resemble others in Hard Times. This is certainly not intentional (on Priestley's part) save in the fact that certain common moral or personal failings are often shown in characters in fiction.
You might comment on similarities between Young Tom Gradgrind and Robin Conway, or a mixture of similarity and contrast between Mr. Bounderby and Ernest Beevers.
House and home
In both works we have a very good idea of the importance of the home. In Hard Times we see several households, but notably Stone Lodge (the Gradgrind home), Mr. Bounderby's house and Stephen's slum dwelling; in Time and the Conways we see a home which looks at first like everyone's ideal of a happy family house, while its value and whether it should be sold are both discussed in the dialogue.
Comment on the importance of the ideas of homes in the two works. This could be further extended by commenting on the importance, in each work, of the towns where the stories are set: grim industrial Coketown and middle-class suburban Newlingham.
Work and play
Both texts have much to say about the kinds of work that people do and whether they are fulfilled by it. Dickens makes a simple contrast between the production of material goods in Bounderby's mill and the entertainment which Mr. Sleary brings. We also see how the Conways love play, in the game of charades at the start of Act One; in Act Two they are preoccupied with work, and play seems far away, though Kay remembers the "silly girl of Nineteen Nineteen". The Conways are involved in many different kinds of occupation, the value of which is considered in the drama.
What is your view of these things?
More explicitly, Ernest really does work his way up from a humble beginning, unlike Bounderby who claims this but lies; Ernest does not boast of this, though when Robin suggests that he might, he appears to have Bounderby, or someone like him in mind (Robin as an educated young man, can be expected to know Dickens' novel, which has by 1919 attained classic status).
Both texts are interested in politics in the work-place: in both industrial relations are an important secondary issue. In Hard Times we learn of the union in Bounderby's mill and Stephen Blckpool's unwillingness to join their action; in Time and the Conways, Madge puts the case for socialism more forcefully, and we learn of two (real) strikes, one by coalminers, and one by railwaymen.
What is your view of the way these issues are presented?
Conclusion - Louisa's and Kay's glimpses of the future
In both works we see how the heroines, Louisa and Kay, try to see into the future. Throughout Hard Times we note how Louisa gazes into the fire; at the end of the novel, Dickens shows her gazing into the future, telling us what she sees and what is to be. At the end of Act Three of Time and the Conways various characters are predicting a future which the audience knows will not be. But Kay has already had a sense of what is to be, at the end of Act One, and she feels that what the others are doing is wrong and foolish. Carol understands what she means and takes back what she has said, while Alan is unable to give Kay the answer she seeks, though the audience know that he will, as he tells her, be able to do so one day (in the future).
What is your opinion of the way the two texts present the idea of seeing or failing to see what the future will bring? Note that both authors tell the reader/audience things the characters have yet to discover.
Remember to quote or refer to textual details. If you use quotation, set it out conventionally. And finally, say whether you like either or both of these works and why!
© Andrew Moore, 2001; Contact me