I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle

by Dodie Smith


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One of the 20th Century's most beloved novels is still winning hearts!

I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle's walls, and her own first descent into love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has "captured the castle"— and the heart of the reader— in one of literature's most enchanting entertainments.

“This book has one of the most charismatic narrators I've ever met.” — J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series

Bonus: Reading Group Discussion Guide included in this edition

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312201654
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/15/1999
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 5,065
Product dimensions: 5.42(w) x 8.21(h) x 0.94(d)
Lexile: 920L (what's this?)

About the Author

Dorothy Gladys "Dodie" Smith, born in 1896 in Lancashire, England, was one of the most successful female dramatists of her generation. She wrote Autumn, Crocus, and Dear Octopus, among other plays. I Capture the Castle, her first novel, was written in the 1940s while she was living in America. An immediate success, it marked her crossover from playwright to novelist, and was produced as a play in 1954. Smith also wrote the novels The Town in Bloom, It Ends with Revelations, A Tale of Two Families, and The Girl in the Candle-Lit Bath, but she is best known today as the author of two highly popular stories for young readers: The Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Starlight Barking. She died in 1990.

Date of Birth:

May 3, 1896

Date of Death:

November 24, 1990

Place of Birth:

Whitefield, Lancashire, England

Place of Death:

Uttlesford, Essex, England


Academy of Dramatic Art, 1914

Read an Excerpt


I WRITE THIS sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining-board, which I have padded with our dog's blanket and the tea-cosy. I can't say that I am really comfortable, and there is a depressing smell of carbolic soap, but this is the only part of the kitchen where there is any daylight left. And I have found that sitting in a place where you have never sat before can be inspiring — I wrote my very best poem while sitting on the hen-house. Though even that isn't a very good poem. I have decided my poetry is so bad that I mustn't write any more of it.

Drips from the roof are plopping into the water-butt by the back door. The view through the windows above the sink is excessively drear. Beyond the dank garden in the courtyard are the ruined walls on the edge of the moat. Beyond the moat, the boggy ploughed fields stretch to the leaden sky. I tell myself that all the rain we have had lately is good for nature, and that at any moment spring will surge on us. I try to see leaves on the trees and the courtyard filled with sunlight. Unfortunately, the more my mind's eye sees green and gold, the more drained of all colour does the twilight seem.

It is comforting to look away from the windows and towards the kitchen fire, near which my sister Rose is ironing — though she obviously can't see properly, and it will be a pity if she scorches her only nightgown. (I have two, but one is minus its behind.) Rose looks particularly fetching by firelight because she is a pinkish person; her skin has a pink glow and her hair is pinkish gold, very light and feathery. Although I am rather used to her I know she is a beauty. She is nearly twenty-one and very bitter with life. I am seventeen, look younger, feel older. I am no beauty but have a neatish face.

I have just remarked to Rose that our situation is really rather romantic — two girls in this strange and lonely house. She replied that she saw nothing romantic about being shut up in a crumbling ruin surrounded by a sea of mud. I must admit that our home is an unreasonable place to live in. Yet I love it. The house itself was built in the time of Charles II, but it was grafted on to a fourteenth-century castle that had been damaged by Cromwell. The whole of our east wall was part of the castle; there are two round towers in it. The gatehouse is intact and a stretch of the old walls at their full height joins it to the house. And Belmotte Tower, all that remains of an even older castle, still stands on its mound close by. But I won't attempt to describe our peculiar home fully until I can see more time ahead of me than I do now.

I am writing this journal partly to practise my newly acquired speed-writing and partly to teach myself how to write a novel — I intend to capture all our characters and put in conversations. It ought to be good for my style to dash along without much thought, as up to now my stories have been very stiff and self-conscious. The only time father obliged me by reading one of them, he said I combined stateliness with a desperate effort to be funny. He told me to relax and let the words flow out of me.

I wish I knew of a way to make words flow out of father. Years and years ago, he wrote a very unusual book called Jacob Wrestling, a mixture of fiction, philosophy and poetry. It had a great success, particularly in America, where he made a lot of money by lecturing on it, and he seemed likely to become a very important writer indeed. But he stopped writing. Mother believed this was due to something that happened when I was about five.

We were living in a small house by the sea at the time. Father had just joined us after his second American lecture tour. One afternoon when we were having tea in the garden, he had the misfortune to lose his temper with mother very noisily just as he was about to cut a piece of cake. He brandished the cake-knife at her so menacingly that an officious neighbour jumped the garden fence to intervene and got himself knocked down. Father explained in court that killing a woman with our silver cake-knife would be a long, weary business entailing sawing her to death, and he was completely exonerated of any intention of slaying mother. The whole case seems to have been quite ludicrous, with everyone but the neighbour being very funny. But father made the mistake of being funnier than the judge and, as there was no doubt whatever that he had seriously damaged the neighbour, he was sent to prison for three months.

When he came out he was as nice a man as ever — nicer, because his temper was so much better. Apart from that, he didn't seem to me to be changed at all. But Rose remembers that he had already begun to get unsociable — it was then that he took a forty years' lease of the castle, which is an admirable place to be unsociable in. Once we were settled here he was supposed to begin a new book. But time went on without anything happening and at last we realized that he had given up even trying to write — for years now, he has refused to discuss the possibility. Most of his life is spent in the gatehouse room, which is icy cold in winter as there is no fireplace; he just huddles over an oil-stove. As far as we know, he does nothing but read detective novels from the village library. Miss Marcy, the librarian and schoolmistress, brings them to him. She admires him greatly and says "the iron has entered into his soul."

Personally, I can't see how the iron could get very far into a man's soul during only three months in jail — anyway, not if the man had as much vitality as father had; and he seemed to have plenty of it left when they let him out. But it has gone now; and his unsociability has grown almost into a disease — I often think he would prefer not even to meet his own household. All his natural gaiety has vanished. At times he puts on a false cheerfulness that embarrasses me, but usually he is either morose or irritable — I think I should prefer it if he lost his temper as he used to. Oh, poor father, he really is very pathetic. But he might at least do a little work in the garden. I am aware that this isn't a fair portrait of him. I must capture him later.

Mother died eight years ago, from perfectly natural causes. I think she must have been a shadowy person, because I have only the vaguest memory of her and I have an excellent memory for most things. (I can remember the cake-knife incident perfectly — I hit the fallen neighbour with my little wooden spade. Father always said this got him an extra month.)

Three years ago (or is it four? I know father's one spasm of sociability was in 1931) a stepmother was presented to us. We were surprised. She is a famous artists' model who claims to have been christened Topaz — even if this is true there is no law to make a woman stick to a name like that. She is very beautiful, with masses of hair so fair that it is almost white, and a quite extraordinary pallor. She uses no make-up, not even powder. There are two paintings of her in the Tate Gallery: one by Macmorris, called "Topaz in Jade", in which she wears a magnificent jade necklace; and one by H. J. Allardy which shows her nude on an old horsehair-covered sofa that she says was very prickly. This is called "Composition"; but as Allardy has painted her even paler than she is, "Decomposition" would suit it better.

Actually, there is nothing unhealthy about Topaz's pallor; it simply makes her look as if she belonged to some new race. She has a very deep voice — that is, she puts one on; it is part of an arty pose, which includes painting and lute-playing. But her kindness is perfectly genuine and so is her cooking. I am very, very fond of her — it is nice to have written that just as she appears on the kitchen stairs. She is wearing her ancient orange tea-gown. Her pale, straight hair is flowing down her back to her waist. She paused on the top step and said "Ah, girls ..." with three velvety inflections on each word.

Now she is sitting on the steel trivet, raking the fire. The pink light makes her look more ordinary, but very pretty. She is twenty-nine and had two husbands before father (she will never tell us very much about them), but she still looks extraordinarily young. Perhaps that is because her expression is so blank.

The kitchen looks very beautiful now. The firelight glows steadily through the bars and through the round hole in the top of the range where the lid has been left off. It turns the whitewashed walls rosy; even the dark beams in the roof are a dusky gold. The highest beam is over thirty feet from the ground. Rose and Topaz are two tiny figures in a great glowing cave.

Now Rose is sitting on the fender, waiting for her iron to heat. She is staring at Topaz with a discontented expression. I can often tell what Rose is thinking and I would take a bet that she is envying the orange tea-gown and hating her own skimpy old blouse and skirt. Poor Rose hates most things she has and envies most things she hasn't. I really am just as discontented, but I don't seem to notice it so much. I feel quite unreasonably happy this minute, watching them both; knowing I can go and join them in the warmth, yet staying here in the cold.

Oh, dear, there has just been a slight scene! Rose asked Topaz to go to London and earn some money. Topaz replied that she didn't think it was worth while, because it costs so much to live there. It is true that she can never save more than will buy us a few presents — she is very generous.

"And two of the men I sit for are abroad," she went on, "and I don't like working for Macmorris."

"Why not?" asked Rose. "He pays better than the others, doesn't he?"

"So he ought, considering how rich he is," said Topaz. "But I dislike sitting for him because he only paints my head. Your father says that the men who paint me nude paint my body and think of their job, but that Macmorris paints my head and thinks of my body. And it's perfectly true. I've had more trouble with him than I should care to let your father know."

Rose said: "I should have thought it was worth while to have a little trouble in order to earn some real money."

"Then you have the trouble, dear," said Topaz.

This must have been very annoying to Rose, considering that she never has the slightest chance of that sort of trouble. She suddenly flung back her head dramatically and said:

"I'm perfectly willing to. It may interest you both to know that for some time now, I've been considering selling myself. If necessary, I shall go on the streets."

I told her she couldn't go on the streets in the depths of Suffolk.

"But if Topaz will kindly lend me the fare to London and give me a few hints —"

Topaz said she had never been on the streets and rather regretted it, "because one must sink to the depths in order to rise to the heights," which is the kind of Topazism it requires much affection to tolerate.

"And anyway," she told Rose, "you're the last girl to lead a hardworking, immoral life. If you're really taken with the idea of selling yourself, you'd better choose a wealthy man and marry him respectably."

This idea has, of course, occurred to Rose, but she has always hoped that the man would be handsome, romantic and lovable into the bargain. I suppose it was her sheer despair of ever meeting any marriageable men at all, even hideous, poverty-stricken ones, that made her suddenly burst into tears. As she only cries about once a year I really ought to have gone over and comforted her, but I wanted to set it all down here. I begin to see that writers are liable to become callous.

Anyway, Topaz did the comforting far better than I could have done, as I am never disposed to clasp people to my bosom. She was most maternal, letting Rose weep all over the orange velvet tea-gown, which has suffered many things in its time. Rose will be furious with herself later on, because she has an unkind tendency to despise Topaz; but for the moment they are most amicable. Rose is now putting away her ironing, gulping a little, and Topaz is laying the table for tea while outlining impracticable plans for making money — such as giving a lute concert in the village or buying a pig in installments.

I joined in while resting my hand, but said nothing of supreme importance.

It is raining again. Stephen is coming across the courtyard. He has lived with us ever since he was a little boy — his mother used to be our maid, in the days when we could still afford one, and when she died he had nowhere to go. He grows vegetables for us and looks after the hens and does a thousand odd jobs — I can't think how we should get on without him. He is eighteen now, very fair and noble-looking but his expression is just a fraction daft. He has always been rather devoted to me; father calls him my swain. He is rather how I imagine Silvius in As You Like It — but I am nothing like Phoebe.

Stephen has come in now. The first thing he did was to light a candle and stick it on the window-ledge beside me, saying:

"You're spoiling your eyes, Miss Cassandra."

Then he dropped a tightly folded bit of paper on this journal. My heart sank, because I knew it would contain a poem; I suppose he has been working on it in the barn. It is written in his careful, rather beautiful script. The heading is, "'To Miss Cassandra' by Stephen Colly." It is a charming poem — by Robert Herrick.

What am I to do about Stephen? Father says the desire for self-expression is pathetic, but I really think Stephen's main desire is just to please me; he knows I set store by poetry. I ought to tell him that I know he merely copies the poems out — he has been doing it all winter, every week or so — but I can't find the heart to hurt him. Perhaps when the spring comes I can take him for a walk and break it to him in some encouraging way. This time I have got out of saying my usual hypocritical words of praise by smiling approval at him across the kitchen. Now he is pumping water up into the cistern, looking very happy.

The well is below the kitchen floor and has been there since the earliest days of the castle; it has been supplying water for six hundred years and is said never to have run dry. Of course, there must have been many pumps. The present one arrived when the Victorian hot-water system (alleged) was put in.

Interruptions keep occurring. Topaz has just filled the kettle, splashing my legs, and my brother Thomas has returned from school in our nearest town, King's Crypt. He is a cumbersome lad of fifteen with hair that grows in tufts, so that parting it is difficult. It is the same mousey colour as mine; but mine is meek.

When Thomas came in, I suddenly remembered myself coming back from school, day after day, up to a few months ago. In one flash I re-lived the ten-mile crawl in the jerky little train and then the five miles on a bicycle from Scoatney station — how I used to hate that in the winter! Yet in some ways I should like to be back at school; for one thing, the daughter of the manager at the cinema went there, and she got me in to the pictures free now and then. I miss that greatly. And I rather miss school itself — it was a surprisingly good one for such a quiet little country town. I had a scholarship, just as Thomas has at his school; we are tolerably bright.

The rain is driving hard against the window now. My candle makes it seem quite dark outside. And the far side of the kitchen is dimmer now that the kettle is on the round hole in the top of the range. The girls are sitting on the floor making toast through the bars. There is a bright edge to each head, where the firelight shines through their hair.

Stephen has finished pumping and is stoking the copper — it is a great, old-fashioned brick one which helps to keep the kitchen warm and gives us extra hot-water. With the copper lit as well as the range, the kitchen is much the warmest place in the house; that is why we sit in it so much. But even in summer we have our meals here, because the dining-room furniture was sold over a year ago.

Goodness, Topaz is actually putting on eggs to boil! No one told me the hens had yielded to prayer. Oh, excellent hens! I was only expecting bread and margarine for tea, and I don't get as used to margarine as I could wish. I thank heaven there is no cheaper form of bread than bread.

How odd it is to remember that "tea" once meant afternoon tea to us — little cakes and thin bread-and-butter in the drawing-room. Now it is as solid a meal as we can scrape together, as it has to last us until breakfast. We have it after Thomas gets back from school.

Stephen is lighting the lamp. In a second now, the rosy glow will have gone from the kitchen. But lamplight is beautiful, too.

The lamp is lit. And as Stephen carried it to the table, my father came out on the staircase. His old plaid travelling-rug was wrapped round his shoulders — he had come from the gatehouse along the top of the castle walls. He murmured: "Tea, tea — has Miss Marcy come with the library books yet?" (She hasn't.) Then he said his hands were quite numb; not complainingly, more in a tone of faint surprise — though I find it hard to believe that anyone living at the castle in winter can be surprised at any part of themselves being numb. And as he came downstairs shaking the rain off his hair, I suddenly felt so fond of him. I fear I don't feel that very often.


Excerpted from "I Capture the Castle"
by .
Copyright © 1976 Dorothy Gladys Beesely.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
I. The Sixpenny Book,
II. The Shilling Book,
III. The Two-Guinea Book,
Reading Group Guide,
Also by Dodie Smith,
About the Author,

Reading Group Guide


Chapter I (pp. 3-11)

Who is narrating I Capture the Castle? What do we learn about this person at the outset? How is the story being told? Describe the form and tone of this novel.

Identify the novel's primary setting and each of its main characters.

On page 10, Cassandra remarks, "I thank heaven there is no cheaper form of bread than bread." What does this mean? What sort of family life is described in the opening chapter? What are the differences between this family's past and present situation?

How did this change come to pass? And, in spite of all this, why does Cassandra add, on page 11, "I think it worthy of note that I never felt happier in my life"?

Chapter II (pp. 12-25)

What do we learn about Cassandra's close ties to her sister Rose? What do they share or have in common, not just physically but emotionally and intellectually? And how are these girls different from one another?

Who is Miss Blossom? What makes her different from the other characters we have met? Is she really a "character" in the way all the others are? Explain.

Describe the character of Miss Marcy. What does she do for a living? What is her background? What is the nature of her relationship with the Mortmain family? How is she helpful to them, in general and in this chapter specifically?

Chapter III (pp. 26-38)

How did the Mortmain family acquire their castle?

On page 36, we learn that Mr. Mortmain's only remaining social companion is the Vicar. What is a vicar? Why do you suppose he is Mr. Mortmain's only friend? And why has Mr. Mortmain "dropped all his London friends" in the first place?

What did you learn about the history and design of medieval castles from this chapter? What is a "keep" (page 37)? Why did square castle towers give way to round ones?

Chapter IV (pp. 39-53)

Why do the hands and arms of Topaz, Rose, and Cassandra turn green?

How do Stephen and Cassandra feel about one another? How long have they known each other? Describe their relationship. How does it seem to be changing - or becoming more complicated - of late?

Think back to the scene involving the statue situated high above the fireplace in the kitchen. What sort of "deal" does Rose make with the statue? Why does she make such a bargain? What is she afraid of, and what does she hope to gain?

Chapter V (pp. 54-67)

Who are the Cottons of Scoatney Hall? How are Cassandra and her relatives, and we as readers, introduced to the Cotton brothers?

Why are the Mortmain and Cotton families so charmed by each other? What does each clan have that the other is keen on or fascinated by? What do the Cottons represent to the Mortmains, and what do the Mortmains mean to the Cottons?

On page 63, Cassandra admits: "I like seeing people when they can't see me. I have often looked at our family through lighted windows and they seem quite different, a bit the way rooms seen in looking-glasses do. I can't get the feeling into words - it slipped away when I tried to capture it." How are the ideas expressed in this quotation amplified by the novel as a whole?


Chapter VI (pp. 71-95)

What did Cassandra overhear at the close of the preceding chapter? Why are the Cotton brothers now no longer calling on the Mortmains? Who is responsible for this breakup, and why?

Why are Cassandra and Rose called to London? Why are they so conspicuous for the duration of their visit? What do they acquire in London? Is it a blessing or burden? Explain.

How does Rose come to be mistaken for a circus bear while coming home from London? Who finally comes to "save" her when she runs away from the stopped train, and what is the truth behind this bizarre and comical episode?

Chapter VII (pp. 96-107)

Describe Mrs. Cotton. What is her manner of speech, dress, and social formality? How does Cassandra perceive her? And how does she impress the other Mortmains?

Look again at the conversation on page 103 about being a gentleman. Cassandra's definition of a gentleman is very different from Stephen's; she even calls his notion "old-fashioned nonsense." Explain their opposing views, and how each view reflects the background, education, and sensibility of the one who holds it.

Reread the four "private thoughts" about Stephen that Cassandra lists in her journal near the end of this chapter. What do these newly "discovered" feelings for Stephen mean to her? Why does she conclude that she must "be brisk" with him from now on? What is she telling herself?

Chapter VIII (pp. 108-30)

Who is invited to the dinner party at Scoatney Hall? Who shows up later? What important scenes and conversations transpire at dinner and afterward?

Who are Aubrey and Leda Fox-Cotton? What does each of them do professionally? What does Cassandra think of them? Why is Aubrey so taken with Topaz, and Leda with Stephen?

On page 121, the characters have a discussion in the gallery in which they assign painters to one another. What ideas and impressions do the characters seem to be communicating about each other, and themselves, here? What kinds of portraits are referred to?

Chapter IX (pp. 131-57)

"Now that life has become so much more exciting," writes Cassandra on page 131, "I think of this journal as a story I am telling." How has her diary changed since we first began reading it? How has she herself changed?

On page 138, Cassandra writes: "Gradually I slid into imagining Rose married to Simon. . . ." Often we find our narrator describing her "imaginings" about herself and her family and friends; I Capture the Castle is rich with such diversions. On pages 106-7, for example, Cassandra is "feeling dizzy" as she daydreams about Stephen. Identify other instances wherein Cassandra lets her imagination wander, about anything or anyone. How do these thoughts affect the narrative of her diary? What would this book be like without such flights of fancy?

Near the middle of Chapter IX, Cassandra and Simon talk in some detail about her father and the famous book he wrote years ago. What is the name of this book? What else do we know about it? What have we learned of Mr. Mortmain up to this point - of his intelligence, behavior, personality, and ability as a writer? Why do you think he keeps making mysterious trips to London? And why does Simon find him interesting? Why does he often baffle Cassandra?

Chapter X (pp. 158-83)

Why is Topaz so upset when she learns that Mr. Mortmain invited the Cottons for dinner at the castle? How does she manage to arrange for a dinner party without furniture, silverware, and china? Why does so much of the menu consist of ham?

Why does Cassandra ask Neil to go swimming with her? Where do they swim? To what extent does Cassandra set up Simon's marriage proposal to Rose? Do you think the proposal would have occurred without Cassandra's arrangements? Explain.

When Cassandra tells Neil of the engagement of Simon and Rose, Neil is not only disappointed but very angry. Why? What does Neil mean by calling Rose a "golddigger"? Do you consider this criticism accurate or fair? Defend your answer.


Chapter XI (pp. 187-98)

What is special about Cassandra's new journal? How did she acquire it?

Why have Rose and Topaz gone to London? Who are they staying with, and where are they staying? What is a "trousseau" and why is Rose due to receive one?

Reread the long letter Rose sends Cassandra. Is Rose happy in London? What does she like about it? What does she mean by writing, "Darling Cassandra, I promise you shall never make any more longing cat noises once I am a married woman"? Why do you think Rose is focused on money and material possessions? Does Cassandra envy her sister? Explain why or why not.

Chapter XII (pp. 199-224)

Why is Midsummer Day so important to Cassandra? What does it mean to her personally and emotionally? Who does she wind up practicing her beloved "Midsummer rites" with? Why does this encounter turn out to be so special?

What is "the Shape" Cassandra describes seeing on a Midsummer night many years ago? How does Simon interpret this phenomenon? What do their interpretations of the Shape - Simon's versus Cassandra's - tell us about these two characters?

"I feel asleep happier than I had ever been in my life." What do you make of this last sentence of Chapter XII? Why does Cassandra feel this way? What has happened to her? Specify your answers with references from the novel.

Chapter XIII (pp. 225-57)

Why does Mr. Mortmain ask Cassandra if Rose is truly in love with Simon? How has Rose led him to doubt the sincerity of her feelings? And though she convinces her father that Rose is in love with Simon, is Cassandra herself convinced? Explore Cassandra's conflicting emotions in light of her own feelings for Simon.

Go back to the scene where Cassandra visits the Vicar. What do they talk about? How does he assist her, or is he even able to? What happens when, after this conversation, Cassandra sits alone in the church? The next day, Cassandra has an encounter with Miss Marcy. In what ways are these two women alike in their view of the world, and in what ways are they different? Why, finally, does Cassandra realize that her friend Miss Blossom is "gone for ever"?

What birthday presents does Cassandra receive from Stephen and Simon? Which gift does she prefer, and why? Why does she then ask Stephen to go for a walk? And why does she allow him to kiss her?

Chapter XIV (pp. 258-90)

Why has Cassandra decided to visit Rose in London? Why is she so unhappy when she goes dancing after dinner with Rose, Simon, and Neil? On page 271, Cassandra admits some things to herself about Simon and her feelings for him: "But I knew, as I sat there amusing him while the band played 'Lover,' that many things which had felt natural to me before I first heard it would never feel natural again. It wasn't only the black dress that had made me grow up." Discuss the realizations that Cassandra comes to at this part of story.

For what purpose has Stephen traveled with Cassandra to London? How does Leda Fox-Cotton treat both of these characters in Chapter XIV? Why does she treat them so differently?

What happens when Cassandra finally confronts Rose, after everyone else has gone to bed? Who, and what, are they arguing about? How do their perspectives on Rose's impending marriage differ-and how, if at all, are they similar?

Chapter XV (pp. 291-318)

Who is Thomas? Describe his duties, interests, and personality traits, as well as his role within the Mortmain household. What are Cassandra's impressions of him, and how do they change over the course of I Capture the Castle?

Explain the trick that Cassandra and Thomas pull on their father. Does this "experiment" seem justified to you, or is it cruel or unfair? Defend your answer.

On page 303, Cassandra and her father talk briefly about her late mother, Mr. Mortmain's first wife. What do we learn about this woman over the course of the novel? Describe Cassandra's thoughts and feelings about her. Why is it important that, for most of the narrative, Cassandra cannot fully remember her mother's face? What causes Cassandra to suddenly recollect that her mother had freckles?

Chapter XVI (pp. 319-43)

On page 322, we read: "'Give me the key,' Topaz whispered to Thomas. 'I want to face it alone.'" Why does Topaz insist on being the only one who rescues Mr. Mortmain?

Next, reread pages 273-4, where Topaz confides to Cassandra what her "job in life" is - and always has been. Which description, if you had to pick one, would you assign to Topaz: supportive or possessive? Explain your stance with specific citations from the novel. How does Cassandra regard her stepmother - as her father's muse, his boss, or otherwise? Explain.

Who winds up with whom at the end of this love story? Were you surprised by how it ended? Explain why or why not. And were you satisfied with the ending, or disappointed? Again, explain your answer.

Finally, this book, which was first published in 1948, is widely considered a classic of its kind. Would you agree? Explain your view.

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