The Final Phase : The Young Visitors
THE YOUNG VISITORS is a "mordantly funny and poignant" novel. In spite of some points open to criticism, this novel has confirmed Wain's reputation, that he had enjoyed after the publication of HURRY ON DOWN in 1953, as a novelist of great range and power.
At the outset, a brief summary of the novel would be useful. A party of Moscow university students - Elisaveta, Tatiana, Elens, Andrei, Nikolai, Konstantin and Olga - are on a visit to London. Elena is the prettiest and most vulnerable of the girls. All of them are sober and young people. They intend "to make the most serious use of their opportunity".2 After graduation they have chosen a career in local and regional administration. They have come to London to study British methods of local government. When the plane lands of the London airport, Elena has formed her own ideas about England though they are, she admits, quite subjective :
England...... what did the word mean to me? The home of imperialism; a small country that had made itself rich and powerful, in its day, by imposing its will on huge subject territories. A life dominated by backward looking tradition and ritual. Soldiers in breaking helmets or kilts, a Queen riding in a golden carriage, boys being stuffed with Greek in school hypocritically called 'public'.3
All the students are lodged in a hotel in separate rooms. There they have an opportunity to watch "point of Departure" programme in T.V. In it presented an interview of Jack Spade, and an Englishman who claims to be a revolutionary and partly believes his own claim. His subject in life is 'to hasten the day when the people of the world are set free by socialism and justice.'4 All Moscow students are simply thrilled and have all the praise for Jack Spade. They even meet him and exchange views about his Rebellion Theatre group on which lies Spade's ambition to make a trip to Moscow. During the discourse with the party, Spade has started appreciating Elena for her beauty at the very first sight. Elena, too, it appears, has a liking for Spade, though Konstantin, a member of the party finds the following reasons of Elena's liking for Jack Spade and tells Elens :
You admire him because he has a hard struggle and meets with a lot of opposition. That's a kind of thing a woman would admire.5
And soon Elena experiences that Spade is not the stuff she had thought of. Bubbling with enthusiasm and curiosity to meet Spade, she starts for '42 Rembrandt Street'. The meeting completely shatters Elena's faith in Spade. Perhaps she doubts his sincerity in the party work when she hears him telling :
So for the moment, I've got a place to sleep. It's more comfortable than staying here all the time.6
Elena finds it disappointing that Jack Spade of all people, 'should set any value on comfort'.7 The breaking point is reached when Spade takes Elena to a beautiful and cozy flat and makes an attempt to make love to her. This is too much for Elena and she manages to get back to her hotel with deep frustration over shattering of values as Spade has said in T.V. that he slept on one of the benches at night. It is the defeat of Spade to whom Elena seems to have been lost. He has another setback when Judy, member of his theatre, too, seeing Elena's purse on the bed, refuses to sleep with him. Completely broken, Spade now gives message on phone asking Elena to see and take back the purse. Elena comes but all his efforts to win her over seem to go in vain. Yet he is successful in making her to come to him again. And this time he openly declares that he is in love with her and cannot live without her. Elena, too, is not a "first-timer" and on being kissed "she slid into it without a ripple".8 So Elena now yields and Spade is successful in making love to Elena. But his intention of telling a lie and seducing her becomes known to her. She comes to know that he has lied to her and has used her for his pleasure. When she gets back to her to hotel she finds Comrade Olga. She makes vitriolic attack on Elena for defying party-discipline :
You want to live in selfishness and idleness, to sneak down back staircase to hide away from everything, that is honest and good. You have decided that Socialist morality is ridiculous. You prefer the ways of the West - to wait till your comrades are asleep, restoring their strength for honest work, and then slip away and run to some haunt of vicious pleasure.9
Elena cannot forget Spade. She expresses her desire to Andrie who tells her a plan. According to it Elena goes to Spade and tells him that she is trying to seek political asylum in England as she cannot go back to Moscow leaving him without her. Spade is simply bewildered. Elena, on the other hand, is very happy that the plan has clicked and Spade fails to doubt her gesture. Olga, with a view to cutting Spade to the proper size, wants to see Spade along with the whole party. She gets partial success though Spade insists on Elena's staying back as he deeply loves her. Meanwhile, while coming back to the hotel, to everybody's surprise, the news of Tatiana's breaking away is broken. Olga, then takes the rest of the members to the Embassy where they are interrogated when they leave for Moscow. They are told that Comrade Olga will be coming later by the next plane.
There appears to be a close resemblance between Wain's THE YOUNG VISITORS and Henry Fieldings' TOME JONES in so far as the essentials of their method are concerned. The method may be called panoramic and it is true to some extent; but all the same it may be misleading. In Wain's THE YOUNG VISITORS the method may be called panoramic. Here we find a shift in Wain's vision. He makes a survey of a broad field of territory (He takes two countries England and Russia). Over and above, "the reader is kept at a certain distance from the scene".10 As the novel opens we find an aeroplane carrying a group of Russian young visitors to London :
"As the aeroplane slanted and began to come down, I suddenly felt frightened. Not frightened of anything in particular, but full of a strange tension and insecurity. All at once our whole adventure seemed to me perilous, even foolhardy.11
The theme of the novel does not emerge from an additional situation which would have involved the "intense experience of a limited number of characters".12 It does not seem possible to get inside one particular character and thereby see the action through the imprint upon his consciousness. Nor is one so closely involved in a concrete situation that one has a sense of encompassing the whole complex of forces "that makes such a situation vital."13 Consequently, we miss the effect of a vital clash of conflicting forces. Spade, the hero of "THE YOUNG VISITORS" feels that communism is in his heart. He tells the T.V. interviewer about himself and his wants :
'My needs?' As he spoke, the camera brought Spade's face into full close-up, and it had a look of visionary contentment such as I'd never seen. After the day is over, I flop down on one of the benches at the Rebellion.14
Elena, the heroine, is simply thrilled at the communist ideals of Spade. One expects she should have involved herself in a vital clash with Spade when she comes to know what Spade has said has no grain of truth. Thus there would have arisen a great dramatic situation; but she is simply sorry not even shocked to hear that he has some cozy apartment against her party discipline. She only bursts into half-anger :
'Comfort table' ? I echoed, found it disappointing that Jack Spade of all people, should set any value on comfort, and I suppose some of my disappointment showed in my voice.15
As a result we find ourselves at a distance from this scene. Our emotions are not deeply emerged. We anticipate that nothing truly disturbing or exquisitely comic will come to light. This may well be seen in the scene in which Spade, finding Elena alone in his room, wants to have sexual relation with her - something very much against the discipline :
"His arm was suddenly round my waist. I kept still, wondering how to break away without shattering the mood of confidence and good fellowship. I so much valued...... Before I could move or cry out, his hand had moved up to the spot between my shoulder-blades again, and he was fumbling with the catch of my brassiere. Fortunately this was more difficult for him.16
We may appreciate only the theatrical quality of the scene. It is perhaps easy to know that nothing will change and Elena will simply go back to her hotel without any harm. Spade does not change. Judy also does not change. Nor will the reader or Wain himself. Even Elena's submission to Spade later on fails to make us look at the scene in a fresh way, because the issue is morally a false one. This is perhaps because Spade comes to know that Elena is not a "first-timer"17 though he himself prevents "him from becoming human"18 and a true communist :
It's you I'm coming to Moscow for, kit, I said. 'You and Communism are the same thing. You both mean hope, a new life, love and positiveness. I never knew what Communism was till I saw you. What kind of human beings it could build'. 'Jack', she said again. She didn't seem to know what else to say, and no wonder. I had her out boxed.19
Whether Elena is "first-timer" or not hardly matters. Wain, too, knows it. Consequently the raising of the issue projects the impression of a sexual archness rather than that of a genuine ambiguity the effect of which would be, by raising an important doubt in our mind, to make us suddenly see the episode in a new way, with a new flash of insight.20
So, a distance is seen between the scene and the reader. It is probably because Wain stands there with an insistent solidity, though Arnold Kettle feels :
Of course it is sure that every novelist stands between the scene of his novel and the reader, controlling and directing our attention.21
It is, however, to be noted that great Victorian novelists like Jane Austen, Emily Bronte and Charles Dickens saw to it that the scene was revealed. Wain, on the other hand, cares little for this with the result that it remains less important than something else. For example, let us take the scene in which Olga gives a rebuff to Elena for defying party discipline. Elena herself is mentally agitated as Spade has lied to her. She has in her heart '...hate - for Jack Spade, for the cruel and deceitful bourgeois world'. It is a beautifully and dramatically conceived scene. It is an episode that is to tell more about Spade the pseudo-communist than a shower of abuses on Elena :
You want to live in selfishness and idleness. You want to live in selfishness and idleness, to sneak down back staircase to hide away from everything, that is honest and good. You have decided that Socialist morality is ridiculous. You prefer the ways of the West - to wait till your comrades are asleep, restoring their strength for honest work, and then slip away and run to some haunt of vicious pleasure.22
And Wain's way of handling the climax is also to be noticed :
'You realise, my poor child', Comrade Olga was saying in a gentler voice, that I can do nothing to protect you'.
'I don't want to be protected', I said.
'It pleases you to be defiant, I see'.23
No doubt the scenes are full of potentialities for being fully dramatic but Olga's verdict "it pleases you to be defiant", comes in the way of the scene being a success, nay, it is Wain who himself comes in the way and his stepping reduces the whole scene. The tone of that "it pleases you to be defiant", puts almost everything in THE YOUNG VISITORS at a distance.
Now an important question arises. Does the distancing of a novel by its author affect it adversely ? In this connection Arnold Kettle's words are worth quoting :
But the method, it must be recognised, puts an enormous strain on the author. If we are to be constantly seeing a novel through a kind of haze of reflectiveness spread around it by the author, then the comments, the reflections, the qualities of mind of the writer have got to be distinguished by quite remarkable understanding and control.24
So, distancing of a novel by its author does not necessarily matter if it is a successful part of a consistent plan. Henry Fielding and Samuel Butler have been successful in achieving it in their respective novels TOM JONES and THE WAY OF ALL FLESH. But so far as the method of John Wain is concerned, the opposite holds. To quote Arnold Kettle again :
Everything depends on the capacity of the novelist to encompass in his own personality and adequate attitude to what he is describing. If he succeeds he will indeed cast around his puppets that understanding and humanity which (in Henry James words about Fielding do 'somehow really enlarge, make everyone and everything important'.) But in his attitudes are less than adequate, then by driving his characters into the distance he will bw weakening his whole effect.25
Wain's attitude appears 'less than adequate', and the whole effect is weakened. So the description 'Panoramic' may seem a misnomer with respect to Wain's THE YOUNG VISITORS; but this is so when the word suggests that the individual characters in Wain's novel are not important. Here Mr. Lubbock's words on Thackeray's VANITY FAIR may help us explore the point at issue :
What Lubbock tells of VANITY FAIR, holds good of Wain's "The Young Visitors" as well. Lubbock's statement is true to a considerable extent. We cannot say that the plot of VANITY FAIR centers round the subject of society. It is the world of well-to-do Britain. Likewise in THE YOUNG VISITORS also we find that the subject is society. The theme also is primarily about well-to-do Britain, though we are told something about Russia and its communism as passing references. No actual scene takes place in Russia. The very first scene is about an aeroplane (though Russian) landing on an English airport. But the subject is seen in terms not of a general impression. It is seen in terms of specific human relationship (relationship between Spade and Elena and among the young Russian visitors, especially between Olga and Elena). Looking on the THE YOUNG VISITORS we recall a whole world. It is a lively, crowded world, vibrating with life. Yet we recall it in terms of individual people and their relationships. Each character, be it Olga of Elena or Spade, has particular characterstics. Sometimes they are exaggerated and simplified and for that matter, easily comprehensible. Once again Wain is very near Thackeray about whose characters Esmund Muir has to say :
These characters are almost always static. They are like a familiar landscape, which now and then surprises us when a particular effect of light or shadow alters it, or we see it from a new prospect. Amelia Sedley, George Osborne, Becky Sharp, Rawdon Crawlay - these do not change as Eustacia Vye and Catherine Earnshaw do; the alteration they undergo is less a temporal one than an unfolding in a continuously widening present. Their weakness, their vanities, their foibles, they possess from the beginning and never lose to the end; and what actually does change is not these, but our knowledge of them.26
This may be true but not quite responsible and fair as some characters of Thakeray's VANITY FAIR like Pitt Crawley do change. And so does Elena of Wain's THE YOUNG VISITORS. The following two passages from "The Young Visitors" clearly manifest the changing attitude of Elena. When Elena sees and hears of his ideals on T.V. , she finds him the champion for the cause of communism :
That's right, mate, said Spade, and his voice had a new sharpness. ' There wouldn't be the sentimentally the poker work motors, the tea-cosy on the table and the hollyhocks outside the cottage door. Here and there, people would have to suffer for the general good. I'm not wrapping anything up. The Soviet Union has had to eliminate reactionary elements.27
The same Elena changes and is disappointed when she finds Spade talking of comfort :
Comfort Oh, God, no. Whoever heard of a Communist wanting to sleep in a soft bed for a week or two, or get a change of wall paper to save himself going mad in a hole like this ? Marx Forbid. It's letting your dreams down, isn't it - those fat, comfortable, secure dreams you have in Moscow.28
And Elena is completely upset when she finds Spade making an attempt to make love to his co-worker. It is against the party-discipline. She even slaps Spade as he makes an attempt to go beyond the limit :
I dragged with all my strength to free the wrist he was holding. When he clung on and and refused to let go, I swung my free hand round and slapped him in the face so hard and that my palm stung and burned. Still he would not release me. Again I slapped him. And again. The third time he let go of my wrist and covered his face with both hands.29
Surprisingly, it is the same Elena, who against her party-discipline goes to Spade and allows him to have sexual relation with her. So Elena does change rather unconvincingly. It is not because she develops organically but because Wain appears to have changed the plan for her half-way through. Nevertheless, the passages quoted above revealed in Spade a sketch of typical upper-class young man. Had Matthew Arnold been alive in the 1970s, he would have repeated what he said a century ago :
One has often wondered whether upon the whole earth there is anything so unintelligent, so inapt to perceive how the world is really going, as an ordinary young English man of our upper class.30
It is true that we do not or rather cannot identify our feelings with those of a character like Elena or Spade and hence a certain distance between them and we, the readers. Yet we cannot discard them as being less human. Knowing their feelings does not imply that we share them as well in the way we share Elena's responses. But it is not, even in the very broadest sense, their manners that are the subject of the book.
It is the marriage, the central relationship that tags Wain, with Fielding, Richardson and Jane Austen. THE YOUNG VISITORS is about the difficulties of personal relationships, between two persons belonging to two nations viz. England and Russia (Spade and Elena). It is well-organised novel despite its discursiveness and some lapses in construction. The most clumsy lapse is the return of Elena after making Spade realize his mistake that he is against the party-discipline and the next moment she thinks aloud about her old beloved Dmitri. She is craving for the same she had already denied to Spade :
Perhaps I shouldn't have broken with him but I was frightened. After that Sunday afternoon..... I didn't date. Oh, I admit It was myself I was afraid of, not him. If I'd acquiesced, If I'd taken up the same way of life as those three boys, and the girls they used to take round with them...especially that Latvian girl. She had no shame. None.31
The planning of the double story of Dmitri and Spade having affairs with the same girl Elena is by no means casual. Not only do the two young boys belonging to two different countries stand in a complementary relation to each other, but their careers are also juxtaposed in contrasting curves of development. Spade is active and bad. Dmitri is comparatively passive and good. Spade's curve rises in the centre of the book, and Dmitri's memory is declining. Wain, perhaps, got this idea of the planning of the double story from Thackeray who in VANITY FAIR does the same. The only difference is that instead of two boys we have two girls Becky and Amelia. Becky's curve like Spade's rises in the centre of the novel where as Amelia's (like Dmitri's) goes on becoming fainter and fainter. About these two girls Lord David Cecil opines what applies, to some extent, to Spade and Dmitri :
The characters of the two girls are designed to illustrate the laws controlling VANITY FAIR as forcibly as possible. And in order to reveal how universality these laws work, they are of strongly-contrasted types.32
No doubt Lord David Cecil has a distinct view of the strong pattern of the book; but, he "seems curiously imperceptive as to its significance".33 He fails to catch the essential part of VANITY FAIR as Kettle opines :
To write of Becky as 'beguiled by the false glitter surrounding the conventional rank and fashion, etc. is surely to miss the vital question; what else Couls Becky do? And once we ask that question it becomes irrelevant to talk of self-deception.34
In THE YOUNG VISITORS, we find that the book is about society. Characters are drawn from the society. But they should not be discussed as if they had any existence outside it. It is so perhaps, because the individual and society look like separate entities and "social laws as something abstract and distinct from personal moral standards".35 Thus the vital motive-force of THE YOUNG VISITORS will be missed. The following passage may be noticed for consideration of it :
I stared at him, stupefied. Was this the Dmitri I had known for so long? The boy who had shared my dreams, my thoughts and my hopes?
'What's the matter with you, Dmitri?' I whispered, frozen into horror. 'What's come over you?
He looked at me, and in this eyes I was a fierceness I have never guessed at. And behind the fierceness, a need. And behind the need, a pleading beseeching love. ' It's because of you, Elena, he said, 'he said. Its because I love you so.36
A little later Elena thinks of herself as a Russian girl :
Should I be ashamed? We Russian girls have big heart, we feel for the suffering of others, and above all we are maternal. We are next generation of Soviet mothers, and our motherly feelings are here to be tapped. Why should I be ashamed of it? I wanted to soothe of my poor troubled Dmitri, to make him happy and laughing as he usually was, and I knew that if he were happy the scales would fall from his eyes and he would see the shabbiness of the life he was allowing himself to drift into..... Spade couldn't be blamed....37
While refusing Spade's attempt at making love to her, and then again, later on, allowing him to do the same, Elena is surely not being selfish. She is in a dilemma - dilemma very much like that of Jane Fairfax in EMMA and almost all the heroines of English fiction from Moll Flanders onwards. A young and modest girl like Elena could not have done otherwise in the barbarous world of bourgeois society. Such a girl has only two alternatives before her, Ethena She should subjugate or rebel.
Elena , in the beginning, rebels when Spade wishes to have sexual relationship with her. After slapping him she whispers - "How could you do it?"38 Elena here looks very much in the line of Moll, Clarissa and Sophia. She will not submit to humiliation though it may lead to the "tragedy of private life".39 What is striking to note is that even when she submits herself to Spade, she has our sympathy. So she appears to be like Heathcliff of WUTHERING HEIGHTS, who, though called a fiendish misanthrope looks to have the readers' "sympathetic nature".40 Like Heathcliff she gains our sympathy and human fellow-feeling the moment she slaps Spade and manages to escape. No doubt, later on, the yields to Spade, but then the circumstances are quite different. And when Elena knows that Spade has lied to her and has used her only for pleasure. She is simply bewildered; but she cannot allow Spade to go his own way. In connivance with her comrades Andrie and Olga she has a plan. According to if she keeps Spade in tension; yet she has decided to leave him and go back to Russia :
Elena - I love you, I'm all ready for you, don't you understand that? Darling, you told me yourself how happy you were that we....' his voice stopped, he seemed to be choking. 'Tell me,' he pleaded thickly, 'tell me it's all right - I won't let them hold you back from coming to me - they've no right...' he stopped again.41
It is this act of Elena that sets in motion the vital vibration of the novel. And it is interesting to compare it with that other act of rebellion that sets off so vastly different a book as WUTHERING HEIGHTS. Elena is determined to go back to Russia. She is fully prepared to face the punishment offered to her by the authorities. She looks quite cruel to Spade though she could have, as pointed out by Olga, stayed with Spade. We are reminded of Heathcliff. Confronted with the dying Catheine, Heathcliff, like Elena, seems to be quite ruthless. Instead of giving some soothing words, he offers her a brutal analysis of what she has done :
You teach me now how cruel you've been - cruel and false. Why did you despise me? Why did you betray your heart Cathy? I have not one word of comfort. You deserve this. You have killed yourself. Yes, you may kiss me, and cry; and wring out my kisses and tears; they'll blight you - they'll damn you.42
Elena, like Heathcliff, retains out sympathy. Instinctively we recognize a rough moral justice in what she has done to Spade. This is so because we understand why she is so. We may not approve of what she does, but we understand why she rejected love to Spade. We come to know that he very forces which drove her to revenging for a better cause (the cause for communism and for that matter for her country) have themselves entrapped her in their own values and determined the nature of her revenge.
Elena's vitality and her fascination have no mystery in them. Elena does not impart any sentimental sympathy (perhaps the country she belongs to is responsible for that). Wain, a man of the 60s (the novel was written in 1965) could have toned down her rebellion, but the energy he has incorporated into her is deeper than his morals or his philosophy. And Elena sweeps him along :
I would have my revenge on this man who had refused my love. Revenge? Yes, but also a kind of rescue, even a kind of blessing. For to leave him in his present state of blindness and insensibility would be to destroy him as a human being. Suffering would break his isolation, give him a feeling for other people. And he must suffer. How, when by what means, I had as yet no idea. But he must. He must.43
A little later Elena, because of the energy Wain has put into her, family decides what she has to do :
In mounting tension, I paced the room. Help, yes, help was what I needed now. Not to beat my shame, not to accept my inevitable sufferings under discipline. That I could do for myself. But to inflict a wound on Spade - one single, deep, unforgettable wound that he would be licking for the rest of his life.44
Spade, on the other hand, is kept in the background of the novel after chapter VII. He is certainly not a rebel and looks like an anti-hero in the line of most of the protagonists of the fifties (Jimmy Porter and Jim Dixon) as he remains as "irresponsible and aimless protagonist".45 He is sensitive, no doubt, but "in a way remote from that tradition in our fiction".46 Perhaps because of this one sometimes feels that Spade is one of Wain's failures. He is the weak link in THE YOUNG VISITORS. It may be perhaps as readers want him to be something he cannot be within the pattern of the book - a hero. It is beyond doubt that Spade fails to get the dimension and magnitude of a hero. All the same, if we count him as one of the anti-heroes, as one is often tempted to, it would be a grass error. It will be too much to expect of Spade to act like a Homer under the circumstances. He says to Elena categorically, "you think because I'm a Communist I want to live my whole life like a rabbit in a hutch".47 Nevertheless, one cannot deny an undercurrent of Spade's hidden desire for a cozy life - something against the principle he stands for. So it is not Spade who is the cause of weakness in the pattern of "The Young Visitors". It lies in Comrade Olga who lets down the novel. It is not because she is "in the psychological sense unconvincing".48 It is because she "fails to bear the weight of the positive values implicit in the pattern of the book".49 Had the values been successfully handled.THE YOUNG VISITORS would have come near Fielding's masterpiece, TOM JONES.
Comrade Olga, right from the beginning, appears to be a great snob. On the very first page of the novel she is seen encouraging Elena, "Don't be anxious, Elena. Our Soviet pilots are skillful, our aeroplanes perfectly designed. There will be no accident."50 She is simple but shrewd and want all the Russian members of the party to follow her advice strictly. And when Elena wants to explain her to Olga she seems to be "a rock, or rather an oak"51 having not moved at all. Her rejoinder is : "what happened is that you, a young woman in whom the party has shown confidence, a Komsomol member, turned your back on sincerity and discipline. What happened is that you tried to deceive me by pretending to go to bed and then sneaking out of the hotel to join some rabble of new-found bourgeois friend..."52 Wain's great strength lies in his ability to see his characters as parts of a concrete social situation. His concern, for example, with finance in case of Ted is an example of his power of setting his people firmly in the world. Then we would believe in them completely even though we know comparatively little about them. The following verbal scuffle between Ted and Spade proves it :
'Look, Ted', I said sweating. 'Let's not quarrel about a lousy twenty-five quid. Just push along now and I'll give it to you when it comes in. Look in about ten days from now.' And see what you get, I thought. You'll be lucky if I don't strangle you.
'Nothing doing, mate,' he said in his flat voice. He could sense my anxiety, without knowing the cause of it, and that made him feel he was getting on top. 'You can easily take twenty-five nickel out of the cash in hand, and put it back when your cheque comes. The party doesn't like having to wait.53
Yet Spade has a typical, symbolic quality. It makes him an individual and sometimes no more than individual though some critics have alleged (and justifiably perhaps) that this kind of typicality does not contribute to art :
This sort of typicality is regarded by some critics as a weakness in art. To say of a character that he is a type of supposed to show a deficiency, a failure to individualise on the part of the author.54
It is in this sense that good characters like Elena, Andrei, Olga and Spade to some extent look like types. This gives them a vitality though they maintain a certain distance from reader. Olga is an unmistakable individual, yet "she is every woman of spirit rebelling against the humiliations forced on her"55 by certain social and national assumptions. Olga is a successful leader of the young visitors from Russia to England. Andrie helps Elena in wrecking vengeance upon Spade so that poetic justice is given to him :
He set quite still, waiting, and after a brief struggle with myself, I forced my voice to begin speaking. I told him the story from beginning to end - from my own point of view, naturally, but still not wrapping it in evasions and not trying to minimise the blame that attached to me. When I had finished he sat silent for a moment and then gave me a sad little smile and said, 'Poor Elena. You have been very much deceived and ill used. And things must get worse for you now before they are better.56
And Andrei does something for Elena : You've thought of something?'
He nodded. 'Follow the instructions I shall give you, and I think the matter will arrange itself as you wish.'
'Oh, Andrei,' I cried. 'I feel such grateful love for you.' He nodded again. 'You should do. I am your friend.' Then he told me the plan.57
Wain himself does his best to destroy his picture of the Communistic ideal. Only at a few moments he will keep himself aloof from the scene and allow the situation to emerge with undiminished effectiveness.
The artistic motive force behind Wain's THE YOUNG VISITORS is his "vision bourgeois society and of the personal relationship engendered by that society.:58This is the kernel of the novel. And "the sweep and vividness of it"59, the vitality of Elena, "the rich and teeming comic life of panorama",60 all derive from the insight and honesty of Wain's vision. It is the weaknesses of both the Russian and British societies that Wain paints. Wain finds that if the British society suffers from the cynicism and hedonism of the West, the Russian society has in it ant-hill seriousness. The novel ends with the words :
In pain, I cried out inside my head that I would give my whole strength, forever, to making amends for my disloyality and self-indulgence. Strong in that resolution, I turned again to the window for a last view of the green English fields and the winding ribbon of the Thames, but as I did so the clouds came down around the windows, and I saw nothing except whiteness.61
On any showing it is a deplorably feeble ending, one that renders Elena rather unconvincing and vague. It is indeed difficult to make out what Wain was upto - what precisely he wanted to convey through Elena. It poses a big question mark and prevents the novel from becoming a big success.