Nothing in Elias' measured life, in his whole career as a teacher of literature, in his marriage to the 'indescribably beautiful' Eva, foreshadowed the events of that apparently ordinary day. He makes sure he has his headache pills and leaves for work as he has done every morning for the past twenty-five years.
He is only too familiar with his pupils' hostile attitude both to his lectures and to himself, but today he feels their impatience, their oafishness, more painfully than ever before and, after their ritually dismissive and bored response to his passionate lecture on Ibsen's The Wild Duck , he reaches a point of crisis.
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