Upon arriving at the NICE, Mark meets the deputy director, Mr. John Wither. His conversation with Wither is anything but fruitful as Wither’s way of communicating is so obtuse and circumspect. He seems not to want to answer Mark’s questions but perhaps is merely missing the point of the questions. Mark does not find out what it is he is supposed to do at/for NICE. He is instead lulled into almost hypnotic agreement with Wither. He is told that the NICE is like a family, that he will be happy there, that he can live where he chooses, that he will be appreciated at NICE. He seems to forget Mark’s name at times, though this is hard to say given his “style.”
John Wither. I’ve never been one to often think that a character’s name was a direct comment on his character, though with Lewis I think this might come in to play at times. I can’t think of a better name for this character than Wither. Its like his insides have wasted away. He had “something rather vague and chaotic” about his face (50). Then there is his general mode of communication, or rather speaking without really communicating anything at all. The bulk of the chapter is centered around Wither’s words which never really come to a point. Is there a point to come to? Who does he literally represent in the story – this “committee” (52)? And is he just an odd man or is there something deeper going on?
Mark, all the time, is continually seduced by his desire to be a part of this “atmosphere of vague, yet heavily important confidence” (52). Mark is obviously unsure of what he is getting himself into, yet wants to be a part of whatever it is. In the end he has not found out what it is, nor if he is a part of it. He has, however, found out that if he wants to be a member of the “the NICE club,” the easiest way is to fork over 200 pounds as a life member. But he is going to have a hard time affording that, unless he accepts the position, which hasn’t been formally offered, which pays fifteen hundred per year.