A Step to Silence
This novel is set mainly in a Training College for male teachers during 1937-8. As the Principle said during a sermon in the College chapel, one of the peculiarities of the institution is the range of ages among the students. Some are fresh from school; others are married men with children.
It is the relationship between a youth of eighteen, and a man of thirty-one that is the concern of this novel. To say that the man, Hesketh, is the villain, and the youth, Knight, is the hero, would be to over-simplify. It would not even be true to represent Hesketh as a deliberately malign influence; but he does, curious mix of cynicism and naivety that he is, represent the world of experience. In one sense Hesketh is the teacher, and Knight is his disciple; and for Knight, at least, the loving hostility between them is all the more intense because of the affairs of Europe in this year before Munich. The woman in the story, Knight's mother and the girl both men love, Jane Oliphant, apparently range themselves on the side of Hesketh; and Knight accepts the challenge in what to him seems the only way possible, by leaving the college and preparing himself for the coming war.