The character of Rose Aubrey is largely autobiographical. Rebecca West’s mother gave up a promising musical career to rear a family. Similarly, her father had interests in writing and politics, repeatedly lost money on the stock exchange, and abandoned his family. Afterward, West’s mother sold a valuable painting to provide for her children. Much of the rich texture in the novel can be attributed to West’s vivid memories of her childhood in such a household.
Rose, as the narrator, unifies the text; her consciousness colors all the elements in the novel. There are, however, two different Roses. The first is the young girl, who, luckily for the reader, is uncommonly perceptive for a child. The second is the mature Rose, who, after a span of fifty years, is reflecting on her childhood. Some of the novel’s quiet optimism comes from this double vision.
The characters in the novel can be categorized according to their stabilizing influence or lack of it. Generally, the women in the novel provide order in a chaotic world. Clare is the center of her family. Her warmth, understanding, and accessibility provide the children with security in spite of the ragged clothes and decrepit furniture. In addition, she teaches the children the value of music, enabling them to see beyond their poverty. Like Clare, Constance has the fortitude to overcome difficult situations. Their children—Rose, Mary, and Rosamund—have the same ability to meet disasters and to survive, an important trait in the world of the novel where men are in control and are, nevertheless, a destabilizing force....
(The entire section is 653 words.)