The Inheritors (Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford) - Plot Summary

Plot Summary

The authors introduce the story via science fiction tropes such as the uncanny – coincidences, ESP, unearthly lighting effects, distorted visions, supernatural aural frequencies and scenes dissolving into another – pointing to the underlying threat of instability that drives the novel. The story is told through the eyes of Arthur, a writer turned journalist who feels he is compromising his art. Although Arthur at first holds to high ideals (he values "literature" over journalism, sacrificial literary types over opportunists), he gradually moves away from them because he wants to be a somebody.

After first compromising his work, and obsessed with the woman, he is seduced into thinking that he has a chance with her. He further believes he has a choice between being phased out without making his mark or being "one of them", one of the inner circle who inherits power along with Them. She accurately chooses him for his weaknesses: his sense of failure and impotence as a writer with a need for significance; his isolation and willingness to join society; his snobbery and openness to flattering attention. While her reasons for bringing Arthur into play are not clear at first, they are complex. Inevitably Arthur is her tool for bringing down her opponent. For the authors, Arthur serves as an observer and an experiment at the hands of the Dimensionists, proving their effectiveness on an individual's psyche.

The story is a Machiavellian labyrinth involving the British Government's tenuous support for a railway baron, a bid to annex Greenland, and a tilt at party leadership. Themes of unrealised potential, the cold-blooded manoeuvering, and the upward climb of the influential mystery woman, fictionalise the intricacies and interactions of class and power in Britain at the time. Two contrasting mindsets of society are delineated by generational values or lack of them and the changes they portend for the everyday people they effectively rule.

By chance Arthur is offered a job writing "atmospheric" pieces for a new journal put together by an editor (Fox), a well-respected writer (Callan) and a Minister for Defence (Edward Churchill). Although Fox is a Fourth Dimensionist, his group represents the more humanitarian version of the Dimension threesome. Arthur is to write about celebrities. In this way, and through his own sense of superiority and lack of sympathy for others, he is drawn into the machinery of politics and the players who aim to inherit the earth. Although he frequently thinks of ways to expose their plan and tries to warn others such as his aunt and Churchill against the woman and Them, he is outwitted. As her brother, people see it as sibling rivalry, contaminated by jealousy, and ambition. His every move outmatched, Arthur lapses into passivity on that front. Instead he tries to win her favour.

Using the ploy of hinting that she cares, the woman leads Arthur into believing there's hope if he can impress her. The ailing and exhausted Fox admits his own defeated position, trusting him with editorial power for a few hours. The climax comes when Arthur has the chance to insert an article that would avert history, to stop the presses at The Hour. But with a desire to show how much he is like her kind, to earn her favour, he decides not to. He learns to his dismay that he did just what he was meant to do, undermine Fox – Gurnard's opponent – that he never had a place in her scheme, and has betrayed anyone who would have meant anything to him, such as Churchill, Callan and Fox. Learning she is marrying a triumphant Gurnard, realising there is no going back and no future for him, he has a minor breakdown at his Club, where people speak of him as "the one they got at".

Read more about this topic:  The Inheritors (Joseph Conrad And Ford Madox Ford)

Other articles related to "plot summary":

The Book Of Sand - Plot Summary
... On opening the book, Borges finds that the pages are written in an indecipherable script appearing in double columns, ordered in versicle as in a Bible ... When he opens to a page with an illustration, the bookseller advises a close look, since the page will never be found, or seen, again ...

Famous quotes containing the words summary and/or plot:

    Product of a myriad various minds and contending tongues, compact of obscure and minute association, a language has its own abundant and often recondite laws, in the habitual and summary recognition of which scholarship consists.
    Walter Pater (1839–1894)

    The westward march has stopped, upon the final plains of the Pacific; and now the plot thickens ... with the change, the pause, the settlement, our people draw into closer groups, stand face to face, to know each other and be known.
    Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924)