In this second chapter we begin to realize that while Dixon is very perceptive about the outward appearances and actions of others, the inner workings of their minds are mysterious to him. Therefore, Dixon's conversation with Margaret is described in terms of strategic warfare. He cannot guess what Margaret will say next, or what she covertly means by what she does say, and associates this deceptive language with all women. It is difficult to determine in this chapter whether it is Margaret herself, or Dixon's own pity and good-natured concern for her, that renders him almost incapable of changing anything about the direction this part of his life is moving in.

The chapter ends with Dixon's longing for an imaginary London skyscape, which introduces geography to the novel. We have been told in Chapter 1 that Dixon's accent is northern English, and the college town and country around it seem to be located in the south of England. London is introduced as a symbol of everything that Dixon's life at the provincial college and at home is not.