The narrative switches to the third-person, and the narrator describes how, for Theo, writing in a diary has become a “task, not a pleasure, devised in an attempt to impose order and purpose” on his own life. Theo continues to teach, though it is now the mature students who make up the bulk of Oxford’s enrollment. Theo eats dinner on campus two nights a week, and each Wednesday attends an evening service in a nearby chapel—to hear the choir only, never to worship.
Theo’s life is marked by a surrender to monotonous routine. Even the diary exists solely for the purpose of creating mindless, rote structure in order to cover up the deficiencies and failures plaguing Theo’s adulthood. Theo rejects actually participating in rituals of hope and renewal, content to observe them from afar to satisfy his own preoccupation with history and routine.
On his way to services one late-January day, Theo sees a woman pushing a stroller which holds a doll dressed up as a “pathetic and sinister parody” of a child. While this kind of thing was popular decades ago, Theo hasn’t seen it in quite some time. He watches as a second woman approaches the woman pushing the stroller, rips the doll out of the carriage, “dashe[s]” it against a stone wall, and runs off. Theo continues on to church, and no one else on the street stops to help the woman with the stroller.
As one of the new “mythologies” of the post-Year Omega world, the ritual of women dressing up dolls as children and parading them around is an act both of hope and despair. The attacker who destroys the doll takes an action rooted in anger and fatalism, symbolizing the tension between those who seek hope and renewal in the post-Omega world and those who reject those things altogether.
Theo notices a new woman at services once they begin. He recognizes her as a former student who was provocative and argumentative in class, but quickly dropped out. When Theo leaves the chapel, he finds the woman waiting for him. She tells him she has something “important” to discuss with him, and Theo agrees. He notices that her left hand is deformed—this, he says, “save[s]” her from the twice-yearly physical examinations which all healthy young women must undergo.
Theo’s memory of his former student foreshadows her provocative nature, and the disruptive, iconoclastic quality of her character and very existence—symbolized physically by P.D. James through her distinctively deformed hand.
The two re-introduce themselves; the woman’s name is Julian. She tells Theo that she and “a small group of friends,” aware of the wrongs happening in England, hope to right things. Julian knows that Theo is Xan’s cousin and a former Council member, and that two members of her group—Luke, a priest, and Rolf, her husband and the group’s leader—suggested she approach Theo and ask him to meet with them. Julian says that her group hasn’t gotten “started” yet, and might not need to take any action if they determine that “there is a hope of persuading the Warden to act” through Theo.
In the authoritarian society that England has become, Theo knows it is risky to associate with a group of anarchists, or even free thinkers. Julian’s group’s plan to work through Theo appeals to his sense of authority, which has been waning as his lecture attendance and role at Oxford has dwindled steadily in the past several years.
Theo tells Julian that he has no relationship or influence with Xan any longer, but Julian begs him to meet with her group anyway. Theo can suddenly tell that “it had been her idea to approach him,” not the other members of her group, and he agrees. Julian tells him to meet them on Sunday at a nearby church. Julian does not stick around any longer. She thanks Theo and slips off into the night.
Theo feels sympathy for Julian, and agrees to the small but consequential action of meeting with her group. Julian’s secrecy and efficiency reveal her action-oriented nature, as well as her own ambition.