Martin Lynch-Gibbon, is a London wine merchant married to Antonia. They had wed due to convenience and they do not have a child.
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Seemingly out of nowhere, Antonia declares that she is leaving him. Martin is shocked. She goes with Palmer, one of their friends and her psychoanalyst. As it turns out, she and Palmer have been having an affair as well.
Martin leaves their house, but he does not want his affair to go public, or be committed any further.
Then he falls for Honor, Palmer’s stepsister who teaches anthropology at Cambridge. One night, he goes into her house uninvited and unannounced, and finds her in bed- with her stepbrother.
Later, Antonia tells Martin that she has been seeing Alexander as well, his older brother, and it dates back to them having been introduced to each other.
He turns to whisky to battle his problems. More than being an adulterer, he thinks of himself as a cuckold.
“A Severed Head” explores fear of intimacy between the married couple, the fear of being in a relationship that values commitment. It also illuminates the ways in which sexual relationships are unraveled, especially when one manipulates or dominates the other.
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