When Nick Jenkins first meets Jean Templer on a visit to the Templer home, in the first part of A Dance to the Music of Time, he is captivated by her strange, almost otherworldly appearance. She is a mystery to him, saying only two sentences, about how "the hard court needs resurfacing" and informing Peter that Sunny Farebrother "turned up just after he left," (Powell, 74) and she seems to pay no heed at all to Nick. He believes himself in love with her, however, despite the apparent lack of interest on her part, and the fact that she is only "fair, not strikingly pretty" does not deter him. (Powell, 74) In the second book, A Buyer's Market, we meet Jean again, and she remains an enigma to Nick. The two have not met since his prior visit, and she only appears for a fleeting second in this book. That second, however, gives us insight into Nick's feelings for Jean, and, in a brief note at the end of the book, how their relationship may develop in the future. Whether she will remain a love interest to Nick remains to be seen, but what is certain is that their relationship will grow, and it will take quite unexpected turns.
The female characters in the foreground of A Buyer's Market are for the most part, unmarried. As such, Jean, who is now married to Bob Duport, seems as though she would be thrust into the background. She does only enter the story for a moment, but in that moment she has a great effect on Nick. She enters just as many of Powell's characters do: without warning, and diving straight into conversation. At first, Nick does not even notice her when they are at the party at Stourwater, and she catches him "deep in the tapestry." (Powell, 192) After beginning conversation on the topic of the tapestry, the two catch up, just as old friends might, about times past. It is clear, however, that Jean is oblivious to Nick's old feelings. She is even so bold at the end of their meeting as to invite Nick over to visit herself and her husband, whom we know that Nick loathes.
One angle from which we can approach Jean's character is by looking at Barbara Goring, who is Nick's love interest at the beginning of A Buyer's Market. Barbara is flirtatious, and, as Nick finds out near the beginning of A Buyer's Market, leads several men on, like Widmerpool, Tompsitt, and Nick himself. She does not commit to any one of the men who are after her, telling Nick, "don't get sentimental," (Powell, 23) and acting in a similarly flighty manner with the other men. She also seems very shallow. This can be seen in the conversation about "the Haig Statue", appearing almost comical in her out-of-place statement. "`I can't see why they can't make a model of a real horse. Couldn't they do it in plaster of Paris or something. Don't you think?'" (Powell, 40) All of this together slowly worsens Nick's impression of Barbara. The last event that pushes Nick over the edge, however, is Barbara pouring sugar all over Widmerpool. While Nick begins A Buyer's Market positively enamored by her, by the end of the first chapter, Nick is quite disillusioned, and has decided that he will stop seeing Barbara.
Jean is very much unlike Barbara Goring. She has a much more serious air about her. She is not beautiful, but she seems to be a much more mature being, with "a sense of restraint, a reserve at present unpredictable." (Powell, 191) In Nick's own words, she "seemed to express none of the qualities I had liked in Barbara." (Powell, 191) Nick finds this much more agreeable, as, at this point, he is attempting to do as much as possible to remove himself from Barbara.
Nick and Jean, however, are not likely to have any sort of romantic relationship any time in the near future. Nick expresses himself that, as a married woman, Jean in his mind is "removed automatically from any such sphere of interest." (Powell, 214) Jean most certainly does not share Nick's dislike for Bob Duport, since she married him, and, by the end of A Buyer's Market, we find out that she is "expecting." (Powell, 234) One glimmer of hope for Nick, however, tells us that we will see more of Jean in the future; that their relationship may yet change again (as so many things have done so far in Powell's story), and that these two characters will grow closer together. "Certain stages of experience might be compared to a game of Russian billiards, played (as I used to play with Jean, when the time came) on those small green tables..." (Powell, 274) We do not know how their relationship will develop, only that it will grow, and it will be quite unlike Nick's relationships with other women.
A tapestry entitled "Luxuria" illustrating the deadly sin of lust wraps the attention of Nick Jenkins at Stourwater (Powell 190). Throughout A Buyers Market art has been a key figure in Nick's description of his world. This alluring piece is based on an actual tapestry, The Triumph of Lust, by Pieter Coecke van Aelst[i]. Completed in 1533 this piece of art would have been an extravagant show of wealth in the late 1920s. Demonstrating social standing is important in 1920s culture, but it is second to the undertone of lust that pulses in every social interaction. The struggle between lust and love is a major theme throughout the novel and a main component in the development of Nick's character. As he struggles to define the role of relationships in his life, lust allows him to evade communication and the complexities of a relationship for the detached simplicities of sex. This focus on lustful interaction is demonstrated by Powell's choice to increase the sexuality in scenes throughout the tapestry of Luxuria to contrast the comparatively timid Triumph of Lust. These changes within and surrounding the tapestry foreshadow Nick's maturation beyond an impersonal sexual encounter with Gypsy and his turn towards intimacy with Jean Templer.
Click on the following link: The Triumph of Lust
Sitting idly at Sir Magnus Donner's party Nick loses himself in a large tapestry titled Luxuria. The similarities to The Triumph of Lust are undeniable. Nick describes "the four footed beast of the Apocalypse with its seven dragon heads... [and] Hercules, bearing his clubs," which are centered in the van Aelst piece (190). On the far right of the real tapestry a woman on a horse holds a cupid figure as it attempts to shoot its arrow. Powell alters this description to illustrate "a winged horned female figure… holding between finger and thumb one of her plump, naked breast, while she gazed into a looking-glass, held up on one side by cupid..." (Powell 190). The key details such as her exposed breast and her winged horned appearance are risqué compared to the 1533 version. Another similarity is seen in a muscular Hercules type figure wielding a club on the left hand side of both tapestries. This is not only an obvious likeness, but a demonstration of male dominance in the scene of lust. Besides the implications of love insinuated by cupid and the domineering masculinity portrayed by Hercules, there is no blatant sexual tension. Powell has altered The Triumph of Lust to push the boundaries of 1920s sexuality beyond the subtleties of 16th century art.
This striking difference of overt sexuality and subtle illusion between Luxuria and The Triumph of Lust foreshadows Nick's first sexual encounter later in the novel. The winged horned female, as described above, is bare breasted and admiring herself shamelessly. This same Eve like picture is captured by Gypsy after her lustful encounter with Nick. "Gypsy lay on the divan, with her hands before her, looking ... a little like Goya's Maja nude-or possibly it would be nearer the mark to cite that picture's derivative, Manet's Olympia, which I had, as it happened, heard her mention on some former occasion-she glanced down, with satisfaction, at her own extremities" (258). In both Maja nude and Olympia the bare figures are gazing out of the picture as if into a mirror to admire themselves. They elicit the same unabashed self confidence as Nick attributes to Gypsy. The figure in the tapestry uses an actual mirror to portray the vanity of her exposed womanhood, she admires herself in the same way that the two women in the paintings and Gypsy do. The undeniable correlation between the figures in the tapestry and Gypsy becomes a subtle form of foreshadowing that the reader is unable to pick up until that fateful lusting moment.
Further forewarning is found in the tapestry scene when Jean Templer pulls Nick out of his "deep" trance. His unrelenting fixation on the tapestry of pure sexual pleasure transitions towards a more meaningful intimacy as he begins to reacquaint himself with Jean. Nick's first thoughts of her show a shift from previous lustful encounters to developing feelings for Jean, "she still seemed slim, attenuated, perhaps not-like the two other girls which whom I had been talking, and around whom my thoughts, before the distraction of tapestry, had been drifting-exactly a `beauty'; but all the same, still in some way mysterious and absorbing to me" (Powell 191). The two girls to whom his thoughts had been previously wandering were Baby Wentworth and Peggy Stepney, beautiful distractions from the bore of the party. His momentary interest in them revolved solely around lustful desires. Nick was "aware of a sudden drift towards intimacy" with a sudden rush of knowing her all at once but "not simultaneously accompanied by any clear portrayal in my own mind of the kind of person she might really be" (193). His rush of emotions are that of grappling to understand Jean's mysterious character instead of blindly falling into lust with her as he had done with Suzette and Barbara.
In this scene Nick's transformation from lustful to loving relationships is delicately hidden in his description of the tapestry and his interaction with Jean thereafter. Powell creates his own version of van Aelst's The Triumph of Lust to create Luxuria, with details that foreshadow the acts of lust toward Gypsy. Nick uses Luxuria and two paintings of naked women to help him define his perception of sexual desire. There is no true emotion, only the reference to works of art that embody his unfulfilling idea of lust. He becomes "conscious suddenly that being in love with Barbara, painful as some of its moments had been, now seemed a rather amateurish affair" (192). Through his renewed encounter with Jean he begins to mature, attempting to define the alluring sense of mystery which is love. Jean's marital status aids this process by preventing his mind from initially wondering if there would be any sexual encounter between them; "if for no other reason, because rather naively, I thought of her as married to someone else, and therefore removed automatically from any such sphere of interest" (Powell 214). By preventing his juvenile mind from focusing first on sex, Nick is able to develop his own idea true love and caring. Nick has become "more divorced from physical desire than those nights lying in bed in the hot little attic room of the La Grenadière, when I use to think of Jean" (215). It is through Nick's interactions around Luxuira that the reader sees that Nick will soon move past his lustful encounters, such as with Gypsy, and move onto a mature loving relationship with Jean.
Today was one of those peculiar days, one of those days that represent a transition into another phase of life. I can't believe that Edgar is dead. I'll be frank, I'm going to miss the old man. I chose not to go to the funeral. Organized religion is such a disservice to the dead. Instead, I went out for a drink. He would find this a more suitable celebration of his life, and I feel that if I don't stand by my principles than I'm no sort of person at all. It is unfortunate that horrid woman, his sister, couldn't see eye to eye with me.
I had a little run in with that fellow Jenkins this afternoon, the stuck up one who's always coming over to chat with Barnby. He surprised me a little. I was trying on my Eve costume for the Fancy Dress party, and I was going to show it to Barnby. The dress is just the sort that he'd abhor, but I think it's a fetching little number. And apparently Mr. Jenkins agrees. I was happy to see he has a little libido left in him. He simply proves my philosophy that everyone needs a good f#ck every once in a bit. I do think it may have been his first time. It was a rather awkward little debacle. Still, I relish that sensation of losing Self and melding into one. It is more potent than the finest opium. I do hope it did him some good, but I don't know if it helped him loosen up. He was quick to make an exit after we were done. I even tried to be friendly. I enquired into the details of the funeral, not that they made the faintest difference. He did mention something about Max Pilgrim, which gave me a good laugh after he left. I admire the pansy garden's sense of community: it seems to conquer the most bitter of personal rivalries. I can't say I wasn't glad to see Jenkins go. Howard came over shortly after. Howard is a forward thinking man, but men get jealous so easy, and I still need a place to stay.
All of these men, constantly thinking they are so fantastic simply because they're on top. Ugh, perhaps it is time for me to take another venture to the Island of Lesbos (as Edgar so elegantly put it). The softness of a woman provides a nice contrast. I don't understand why our modern society is so set on its sexual boundaries. The Greeks were more sophisticated than we are, and that was millennia ago! Now they view homosexuality or any aberration from their social norm as madness and immorality. But they view nothing wrong in mowing down millions of young men with their machine guns. And for no good reason! At least with a f#ck you get some pleasure out of it. This world can be a cruel place, so why is everyone so hell bent on deciding how people get their kicks. I know I'm only trying to cope as best I can.
In Anthony Powell's A Buyer's Market, the relationships between the characters are complex and many-layered, as illustrated by the truism; "Nearly all the inhabitants of these outwardly disconnected empires turn out at last to be tenaciously inter-related; love and hate, friendship and enmity, too, becoming themselves much less clearly defined, more often than not showing signs of possessing characteristics that could claim, to say the least, not a little in common," (159). This applies especially to the relationship between Jenkins and Widmerpool. Although Nick and Widmerpool do not usually plan to spend time with one another, they are brought together by outside forces. While they seem to share very little in common, they are loosely bound together by friendship and are often competing silently, even subconsciously, against the other. Widmerpool is more concerned with business while Nick cares more about the social aspect of his life; but Jenkins and Widmerpool remain connected through friendship and competition.
Widmerpool is competitive about his place in the business world unlike Jenkins. He works to attain to goals in business. Nick presents himself as passive, while Widmerpool is outgoing and assertive. He possesses a will to succeed that Nick does not. He admires Widmerpool because of his "embodiment of thankless labour and unsatisfied ambition" (30) yet he cannot see why others, such as Tompsitt, find extraordinary potential in him. He is conscious of Widmerpool's apparent success, since Nick himself is only in the business of art books. Jenkins mentions that he is trying to write a book, but does not have the drive to focus on it. He rarely talks about his work unlike Widmerpool, who makes no attempt to conceal his self-perceived importance. This reluctance gives the impression that he is uncomfortable talking about his job because he does not want it criticized or compared to his more successful friends. Nick has been unable to achieve any great successes. Widmerpool even tries to take an interest in Nick's affairs by "trying to find a way in which my daily occupation could be directed into more ambitious avenues" (79) showing that Widmerpool thinks little of Nick's job. Widmerpool thinks that because he has been a mild success he will be able to help others to become like him, or perhaps he just sees potential in Nick and wants to use it to his advantage later on.
Jenkins has a silent rivalry with Widmerpool over love. They both want to be involved with Barbara. They even compete over who will get to dance with Barbara next. When Widmerpool sees Barbara during the dance, he wears the same expression as when he was "waiting for the start of one of the races for which he used so unaccountably to enter" (65). Nick knows that Widmerpool has a crush on Barbara, but feels he does not deserve her. He feels that he should not even be at the dances because he is so socially awkward. Since he is at the dances, Nick is competitive because he sees Barbara as his. It is accidental that Nick is competitive with Widmerpool over love. If Widmerpool was not interested in Barbara, Nick would not care nearly as much. However, both begin to lose their crushes on Barbara after the sugar incident. Nick realizes that he and Widmerpool have similar tastes in women, which gives Nick a larger sense of competition. As Nick had never mentioned his feelings for Barbara to Widmerpool, the rivalry is one-sided and the competition is silent. Widmerpool is determined, which increases the sense of competition between the two when dealing with women.
Despite their competitive natures, the two share a type of friendship. They become acquaintances that are linked by fate. Throughout the novel Widmerpool appears at the most unexpected of times, but almost never to see Jenkins specifically. Nick says that he would come to view him as "one of those symbolic figures...round whom the past and the future have a way of assembling" (29). They often spend time together, including at Widmerpool's house. Despite this, he "had very little idea of Widmerpool's true character: neither its qualities not defects," (59) so he judges him according to his actions. They normally do not talk about substantial issues when alone, but rather make small talk. However, the incident with the sugar angers Widmerpool enough to drive him to confess his feelings about Barbara to Nick. He gives Nick a certain amount of respect, and sees potential to become partners in business or friends. Widmerpool must see something in Nick because he "could not bear to be connected personally with anyone, or anything, that might be made, however remotely, the subject of ridicule" (59). Otherwise he would not be seen in public with him or invite him over for dinner. Widmerpool sees something in Nick that Nick himself does not see. Jenkins cannot make up his mind about whether or not the two are friends and leaves it up to the reader to decide. He gives us adequate reflections to show that Widmerpool, who is ambitious and proud contrasts greatly with his own nature, which he represents as passive and naïve. Even though Nick cannot sort out his feelings towards Widmerpool, he recognizes that the two of them are linked.
Widmerpool and Jenkins have distinctively different personalities. While Widmerpool is assertive, Nick is passive. This leads to confusion in their relationship. It is difficult to sort out whether the two of them are friends or are in competition, but they are undeniably linked. Widmerpool has climbed significantly since his school days and gives the impression of going much further, both to the other characters and to the reader. Jenkins has better social skills and, as the final paragraph hints, will be using them to his advantage soon. Even though Jenkins has not yet progressed tremendously far in the writing world, the reader gets the impression that he will climb much higher and Widmerpool will play a part in it.
In Anthony Powell's A Buyer's Market, the narrator, Nick, speculates endlessly about others while withholding much of his own life from view. During this time, Nick's life is in a fall from the lofty heights of Eton and Oxford into the art book business and the apartments of Shepherd's Market. He sees characters he considers less talented and deserving than himself prosper while he lives in a rundown red-light district. This is not to say that Nick does not have opportunities. He attends many respectable dinner parties and dances held by the upper classes. Nick's choice of profession, in the art book business is another largely avoided topic. The compensation and chances for advancement seem poor, but are not explained. Nick also has a lack of belief in his own endeavors. In many ways this explains his sympathy for Uncle Giles, a character bereft of accomplishments and wealth. Nick's attitude makes his life during the novel, both social and working, seem to be almost nonexistent.
During A Buyer's Market Nick attends many upper class social functions, mixing with many notable London figures. He attends the dances of the rich, though he is ineffective in his pursuit of love. Part of Nick's problem is his lack of maturity. This is made clear in the context of Barbara Goring, when Nick mentions that, "marriage appeared something remote and forbidding, with which desire for Barbara had little or no connection" (25, BM). Nick's lack of maturity is also evident when he has sex with Gypsy Jones after Mr. Deacon's funeral. He excuses this by referring to Barnby's remark that, "the funeral had been `hard on the nerves,'" (256, BM). Nick also encounters Jean Duport at Stourwater and she asks him to dinner, but any action taken upon this invitation is left out of the novel. Nick, despite his apparent obsession with Jean admits that he had, "no coherent plan to make love to her" (214, BM). Though he spends much time thinking about his lack of romance, Nick suggests that he does not spend enough of his time at these parties looking for, "a girl to take the place of Barbara," (152, BM) and that he, instead, "prodigally wasted ... time" (152, BM).
Nor does he mention much networking at these dinner parties, if he does any. When he does talk with people about business, Nick seems to avoid any conversations about his own work. Two of Nick's contemporaries at Oxford, Mark Members and J.G. Quiggin, are also pursuing careers in literature. Members works for St. John Clarke, a well known novelist and Quiggin is a published author with good prospects. Nick talks with both of them at Mr. Deacon's party, and they talk about each other's work quite a bit but Nick does not relate anything about his own work in the art book business. Having not had a chosen career earlier in life, it appears Nick drifted in after university. Widmerpool remarks that, "it doesn't sound to me a very serious job," (79, BM) and Nick mentions nothing to refute such claims. It would seem the art books business is not very ambitious, not very profitable, and not very fashionable. Nick mentions that he, "toyed with the idea of attempting ... to begin work on a novel" (242, BM), but only mentions this idea once, as if he does not take it very seriously.
Nick's lack of current success is reminiscent of his Uncle Giles. Uncle Giles is an older bachelor hovering on the edge of financial ruin with a stringent set of standards for the rest of the world. Nick often attempts to view the world as he believes Uncle Giles would. "His views, in fact, provided a kind of yardstick to the proportions of which no earthly yard could measure up" (96, BM). Nick often denounces Uncle Giles and brings him up whenever an older and somewhat unsuccessful character's flaws are going to be discussed. A bit of a maverick, according to Nick, Uncle Giles's opinions were also, "naturally associated in the minds of most of his relatives with threat of imminent financial worry for themselves" (6-7, BM). Nick's fascination with Uncle Giles seems connected with his worries about his own life, "I was ... convinced that I had not yet succeeded in striking a satisfactory balance in my manner of conducting life" (260, BM). Nick also throws doubt upon his own role in his own shortcomings, "nothing in life can ever be entirely divorced from myriad other incidents" (254, BM).
Nick's resignation to fate, whether good or bad, is characterized by these beliefs: his own endeavors are not very good and missed opportunities were not his fault. His desires are sometimes mentioned, but never any efforts of his own to fulfill them. In many ways, Nick seems to expect life to be handed to him. When this does not happen he remarks that, "life seems to have begun in earnest ... and we ... are careering uncontrollably down the slippery avenues of eternity" (274, BM). If Nick takes any actions to achieve his desires they are implied at best. There is a sort of embarrassment in his having sex with Gypsy and writing a novel. As Nick himself states, "there is a strong disposition in youth ... to suppose that everyone else is having a more enjoyable time than we are ourselves" (260, BM).
In Anthony Powell's A Buyer's Market, new characters are a dime a dozen. They're constantly being thrown into the mix, and added to the vast number of social gatherings that seem to occur. If not careful, one could easily get drawn in by this impressive array of personae and lose focus on what matters most, in Nick's case, himself. Throughout A Buyer's Market, Nick is constantly changing his views on the remarkable amount of people he knows, forever deciding how he feels about them and their paths in life. Continually analyzing people, he has no time for himself, and is unable to determine where and how he belongs, essentially getting left behind by all the people he could once relate with. This is most notable in Nick's love life, or lack thereof.
At the age of twenty-two, Nick's romantic life has yet to begin, but he is unwilling to admit that it hasn't already started. "This affair with Barbara, although taking up less than a year, seemed already to have occupied a substantial proportion of my life." If Barbara's year's worth of rejection constitutes a relationship or affair, then I suppose Nick speaks the truth, but I sincerely doubt that is the case. The affair he speaks of could be more accurately described as boyish obsession. "Oh what fun to meet like this, she had said. I felt immediately a sense of extraordinary exhilaration at this harmless remark." This is one of many encounters where Nick desperately tries to grab hold of any possible remark or action that could potentially mean love. Much like a boy half his age, he has latched on to something he perceives to be meaningful and will not be swayed: "...seeming to retain in their paper and ink some atom of Barbara herself to be preserved, and secreted until our next meeting." We all know what it feels like to adore someone. Nick's fixation is something more. It is a silent refusal of how time changes people, and how they move on. He feels left behind; Barbara would be his ticket to the reality that all his peers seem to be living in.
She isn't the only catalyst for this emotion. Jean Templar brings out a very similar feeling. At the news that she had been married abroad, Nick immediately showed sentiment much like his towards Barbara. "The sudden awareness of displeasure felt a second earlier at the apparent prosperity of Duport's general state was nothing to the pang I suffered on hearing this piece of news." Nick admits that he had not even though about Jean for multiple years, but the idea of her moving on, while he was left behind proved very painful for him. He begins to speculate whether they ever could have been married and what life would have been like. What Nick doesn't realize, is that he doesn't actually like Jean for who she is, he simply likes the idea of her, the idea of getting married and caught up with everyone else. The feeling is accentuated when the two reunite in front of a tapestry portraying newlyweds. "I was aware of an unexpected drift towards intimacy."
Not only is Nick struggling with the idea of his own love life, but he also sees his two (debatably) closest friends, Templar and Stringham, due for marriage. The two final people with whom he could truly connect with are now moving on as well. He is alone with Widmerpool, and not thrilled about the connotations. Sleeping with Gypsy was a manifestation of all the thoughts running through Nick's head, an attempt to catch back up to all the people who kept moving on in life. He naively assumed that his act with Gypsy would grant insight to love, the one thing holding him back. "Gypsy for her part, appeared far less impressed than myself by consciousness of anything, even relatively momentous, having occurred." To feel that he belongs Nick will have to do more than have a one-night stand or romanticize about what could have been, and start focusing on the present.
In Anthony Powell's A Buyer's Market, Nick finds himself on the lookout for a spouse. Nick's interactions with eligible women often occur at the numerous parties that take place over the course of this book. However, love seems to be a scarce commodity in the "buyer's market" and many characters seem to settle for wealth, social status, or reputation to fill the void. Throughout the book, Nick has a series of love interests, the next always more pressing than the previous. However, Nick's attraction to Jean and Barbara is sparked by the girl's demonstration of interest in him, not a genuine attraction motivated by his own tastes. In short, Nick is only motivated to pursue women whom he believes are attracted to him.
Early in the first chapter, Barbara's outgoing personality quickly ensnares Nick into a yearlong love affair. Upon Nick's first introduction to Barbara she immediately requests that he "be quick, if [he] [is] going to ask [her] for a dance"(16). Nick admits that he was "enchanted on the spot this comportment, which [he] found far from discouraging"(16). This aggressive attitude toward Nick caused him to believe that she may have an interest in him, a feeling that only grew as time passed. When Nick and Barbara are walking in the park, Barbara exclaims, "Oh, what fun to meet like this"(17). A relatively simple comment, which nevertheless causes Nick to feel "a sense of extraordinary exhilaration"(17). Nick becomes so smitten with Barbara that he suffered "agonies of ignorance"(24) when he is unaware of her activities. After Barbara invites Nick to dine with her, Nick feels that "Jean and Suzette now seemed dim, if desirable, memories"(25) and he felt "more sure now of the maturity of [his] approach"(25) with Barbara. However, at the party Nick realizes that his relationship with Barbara, if you could can it that, has dwindled; a realization that ultimately leads him to discard all feelings for Barbara. After the sugar incident, Nick concludes that "up to that moment the situation between [Barbara and himself] had seemed to be on the way to resolving itself, on [his] side at least, rather sadly…with excusably romantic melancholy"(73). Nick's realization of Barbara's lack of attraction to him causes him to be "quite certain that Barbara...was not-and had never been-for [him]"(73). And so as Barbara's interest fades so does Nick's, leaving both characters to browse for more fitting partners.
Similarly, Nick's renewed attraction to Jean is also a product of the attention she pays to him at Stourwater. Jean, for whom Nick always harbored a small crush, didn't have to do much to recapture Nick's full attention. During the dinner at Stourwater, Jean approaches Nick, recalling that he is "a friend of Peter's...[who] came to stay with [her] years ago"(191). Nick, caught off guard by her reappearance, is "not at all sure how [he] fe[els] about [Jean], though conscious suddenly that being in love with Barbara seemed a rather amateurish affair"(192). As the conversation continued, Nick becomes "aware of an unexpected drift toward intimacy"(198). When the conversation ended, Nick's "feelings for her [were] uncertain, but this attitude was not of indecision so much as complete unawareness"(198). Nick cannot fully commit himself to admitting attraction to Jean until he is more certain of her feelings toward him. However, for the rest of the evening he "was anxious to escape from the group and look for Jean"(213). While Nick is unable to find Jean before he leaves Stourwater, at the close of the book Nick hints that he and Jean do reunite at a later date.
In A Buyer's Market Nick, on the quest to find love, attends several parties with the intention of meeting women. Barbara, Nick's first love, is able to overpower Nick's passive personality with her own aggressive flirtation, a quality that immediately draws Nick to Barbara. However, after determining that Barbara had no real interest in him, Nick concludes that his love for Barbara was a "rather amateurish affair"(192). Prospect less once again Nick is caught off guard by Jean Templer who initiated a conversation with him at Stourwater. Still uncertain of Jean's feelings for him, Nick cannot decide what his intentions toward Jean are. In both cases, Nick only becomes interested after he believes that Barbara and Jean have demonstrated a more than friendly attitude toward him. Whether Nick's passive nature will obstruct his conquest for Jean remains to be seen.
Mr. Deacon and Uncle Giles are both important figures to Nick. They are odd in their own ways, but strikingly similar. Despite their similarities, they represent to Nick two very different things: Uncle Giles is a constant and Mr. Deacon marks important changes in Nick's life.
Uncle Giles is peculiar and awkward. He doesn't have a job, and his source of income is his relatives, who are obligated to help him when he is in need. There isn't much evidence to suggest that he leads a social life of his own apart from his family. He is also constantly concerned with the trust, as he is never in possession of much money. His family members seem to be embarrassed by him and he is not expected to be very reliable: "Uncle Giles had been relegated by most of the people who knew him at all well to that limbo where nothing is expected of a person (AQU, 16)." When, at Jenkins' dormitory in Eaton, he lights a cigarette and takes time in putting it out, he shows a lack of regard for rules and for others, and, according to Nick, he "merely desire[d] most aspects of the familiar world to be more nicely adjusted to his own taste (6)."
Though they are related, Nick does not know Uncle Giles well, as his way of handling money had resulted in "an almost complete severance of relations (22)" between Nick's father and him. When he reenters Nick's life, Nick is mature enough to see him separately from his father's opinions, and he becomes a constant in his life. He can fall back on Uncle Giles when he needs a dinner date, and Uncle Giles grows to less of an abnormality to him. However, their meetings are still irregular and sporadic. Despite his being odd, he is a benchmark that Nick uses to compare people to.
Mr. Deacon is an artist who, though not greatly in need of money, is by no means rich.. He isn't famous, but his work is known enough to appear in the Walpole-Wilsons' and he is known in a strange but active social web. Those who know him know him to be quirky: "He liked to describe how [...] he deliberately underwent long periods of undertaking his own cooking (5)," always traveled by foot instead of train, had "an aversion, often expressed, for conduct that might be looked upon either as conventional or conservative (6)," and "his Continental visits were, in fact, more painful for managers of hotels and restaurants frequented by him; for he was a great believer in insisting absolutely upon the minute observance by others of his own wishes (5-6)." Though, unlike Uncle Giles, Nick's parents enjoyed Mr. Deacon's visiting, "it would not be precisely true to say that they liked him (7)," and he "was in favor of abolishing, or ignoring, the existing world entirely (6)."
Mr. Deacon is an old family friend. However, until reencountering him on the street before Mrs. Andriadis' party, Nick is not very familiar with him, because they had moved apart a long time ago. Like Uncle Giles, Mr. Deacon is reminiscent of Nick's family, but instead of being a constant, Nick recognizes him as change: upon their meeting in the Louvre some years previously, "Mr. Deacon's reappearance at that season seemed [...] to indicate divorce of maturity from childhood (14)." When Nick reencounters Mr. Deacon, Mr. Deacon soon becomes a close friend of Nick's. Upon Mr. Deacon's death, Nick reflects that they had met often in the time following their renewed acquaintance. Nick "certainly felt sad that [he] should not see Mr. Deacon again. The milestones provided by him had now come suddenly to an end (231)."
Uncle Giles and Mr. Deacon are both rather odd characters, and share many similarities in the ways they act around and feel about other people, both wanting the world to conform to them rather than conforming to the world. They both are figures from Nick's past who have become more important to him as an adult, however, Uncle Giles never changes from his radical and unusual self and never means more or less to Nick. Mr. Deacon changes in Nick's perspective from a distant figure from childhood, to a friend, to a figure of the past, a walking reminder of important events in Nick's life.