Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Nicholas Jenkins, the narrator, a sympathetic and contemplative, yet oddly detached, man. Jenkins begins as a schoolboy, the son of a mid-level army officer, who encounters his longtime associates Stringham, Templer, and Widmerpool in an aristocratic milieu. Jenkins goes on to university and then to the bare beginnings of a literary career in London. He develops a new, more bohemian circle of friends, including such men as Barnby and Moreland, and has a passionate, adulterous love affair with Jean Templer, who eventually leaves him to go to Latin America. Jenkins begins to lose touch with Templer and Stringham as they diverge on their own separate paths. He then marries Isobel Tolland and concurrently sees his novelistic career begin to blossom. Volunteering for the army with the onset of World War II, Jenkins is stationed with a Welsh regiment in Northern Ireland before moving on to more useful work as a liaison officer between Britain and the other Allied powers. After the war, Jenkins feels dislocated by the death of so many of his friends. He manages to maintain an equilibrium that few of his friends possess. This enables him to survive in situations in which men like Widmerpool undergo a calamitous fall. It is when Jenkins learns of Widmerpool’s death that he has a final meeting with Jean Templer and glimpses the lost possibilities of his early love.
(The entire section is 560 words.)
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