By the time this room reappears in act 4, its decor has changed considerably. Various animal skins, stuffed birds, and the weapons used to kill them have replaced the paintings, and other items have been replaced by mementos of Crichton’s castaway experience. The tale tacitly told by these exhibits is, however, transparently false. Labels attached to the trophies on the walls emphasize the fact that all Crichton’s achievements have been rudely appropriated by the aristocrats, who are his social betters. However, the true story behind the sham can be perceived now, much more easily than in act 1.
Island. Desert island on which various members of the Loam household are shipwrecked, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Its shore is fringed by a thicket of bamboo. Trees, including coconut palms, are abundant, and its fauna includes monkeys, snakes, and wildcats. In act 2 the only edifice that the castaways have erected is a half-finished hut, and the only person working constructively on it is Crichton. When act 3 opens two years later, the castaways have moved to a larger log cabin, set on higher ground close to a stream. A mill wheel erected on the stream provides the cabin with electric light.
The furniture of the cabin’s main room stands in careful contrast to that of the reception room in Loam House. Improvised spades, saws, and fishing rods are placed on the joists supporting the roof. Cured hams are suspended from hooks, while barrels and sacks of other foodstuffs are lodged in recesses. The floor is bare save for a few animal skins. Although various pieces of wreckage have been put to new uses–the ship’s steering wheel is now a chandelier, and a life buoy provides a back for one of the chairs–most of the furniture is the result of “rough but efficient carpentering.” Its main door consists of four swinging panels, and its unglazed window is equipped with a shutter. There are several sleeping rooms and a work room.
At the first appearance of this miracle of improvisation, its architect, the butler, is conspicuously absent, while other cast members drift in and out, emphasizing by their conduct that they are now entirely subservient to his mastery. The meal that is eaten when he does appear is an extreme contrast, in terms of its constituents, its apparatus, and the roles of its participants, to the tea served in the reception room of Loam House. The spontaneity of the after-dinner dancing, to the tune of a makeshift concertina, contrasts sharply with the stiff formality of social intercourse at Loam House. What kind of social progress is it, the play meekly wonders, that has transformed one setting into another, and how can such perverse artificiality possibly survive?