Mrs. Wilcox dies relatively early on in the novel. Her influence, however, is felt by many of the characters. In what ways does she remain a presence in the second part of the novel?
The relationships between women and men are a central part of the novel. In terms of gender dynamics, compare the following three marriages: Ruth and Henry Wilcox, Jacky and Leonard Bast, Margaret and Henry Wilcox.
Many people look at the novel as a struggle between two families: the Schlegels and the Wilcoxes. In actuality, the individual members of these families are quite different from each other. Discuss the differences between Margaret and Helen as well as those between Henry and Charles.
Helen worries about her sister's ability to stay true to herself once she marries a man like Mr. Wilcox. Does Margaret compromise herself once she accepts his proposal, or not? Explain.
Margaret and Mr. Wilcox have distinct attitudes when it comes to dealing with different sorts of people. Mr. Wilcox frequently maintains that he "knows the type," whereas Margaret embraces the differences between people as essential to the nation's success. What are some ways in which their different opinions are manifested?
The novel is marked by occasional interjections from the narrator. What is the narrator like, and is he or she biased? If so, in what ways?
One of Margaret's complaints about life is the way that things are always moving. This ties into the idea of having a permanent home. Compare the different ideas about houses of Margaret, Ruth Wilcox, and Mr. Wilcox.
Margaret and Helen both strive for successful personal relations, but their methods of connecting with people are different. Discuss their different relationships with people outside of their family.
Politics are certainly not absent from the novel. What are some of the different political issues that come up, and how do they tie in to the novel's greater themes?
One might argue that aside from his receiving Margaret's calling card, the first encounter that Leonard Bast has with the Schlegels is useless in terms of the novel's plot. How could one refute this argument?