The weak, rejected by the meager-minded strong, is defeated and the strong are faced with the responsibilities they have evaded and ignored. In a small, private girls' school in the East, the defeat of Sophie Seward, whose long record of failures has made her vulnerable, occurs on the Saturday before Commencement. Those implicated are the head mistress, her assistant, a Catholic English mistress, ""The Twins"" who teach Latin and history, the Jewish science instructor, the French and games and art heads. Each has a personal flaw or scar; each, in turn, refuses to respond to Sophie's need for help -- against the students' deliberate but veiled attacks, against her own awareness of the toll of her diminishing years; and each, except the Catholic, when Sophie suicides, commits her own insufficiency to the oblivion of reasoned excuses. A first novel that defends the necessity of ""one right"" with no distinctions, no degrees of honesty, this is an impartial -- but not impassive -- look at an educational institution, and its pretensions, its faculty (as people), and a passing but shrewd glance at the girls themselves.