(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Simon Camish and Rose Vassiliou both lead barren lives before they form a friendship. Simon has been reared in genteel poverty and has made a successful career in law through rigid self-control and habitual denial of his emotions; he hates but refuses to respond to the attacks made upon him by his wife, Julie. Rose has survived a sensational life. The daughter of wealthy but uncaring parents, she was sent abroad with considerable publicity to separate her from her immigrant lover, Christopher, but married him on her return, after her twenty-first birthday. She attracted renewed attention from the press when she gave away a large inheritance and insisted on living on the edge of poverty and rearing her children in a rundown section of London. Still later, the newspapers exploited the sensational aspects of her divorce.

Simon and Rose become good friends largely because they are so different. He has struggled all of his life to attain affluence and security, while she has eagerly thrown both away. He has become unable to express his emotions, while she cannot contain hers. He lives in misery with his wife and refuses to fight with her over their children, who he recognizes are being harmed by the domestic situation; Rose has divorced her husband. She feels great guilt over separating him from their children, despite the fact that their marriage had turned out badly, and Christopher had abused her physically and verbally, even after their divorce. In his visits to Rose’s shabby house, Simon feels great comfort and is able to relax, while Rose learns to lean on him for legal advice and to admire his self-denying steadiness. While both believe that they would enjoy being married to each other, no sexual element enters their relationship.


(The entire section is 721 words.)

The Needle's Eye Summary

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In The Needle’s Eye, Simon Camish is a successful barrister who is profoundly unhappy in his marriage to Julie. Rose Vassiliou is a divorced mother of three children who lives in virtual poverty. The daughter of wealthy parents, she has renounced her family and donated a large inheritance to a charity, rather than accept money that she believes she does not deserve. When Simon and Rose meet, each recognizes in the other qualities that he or she lacks. The two are polar opposites. Simon devotes considerable energy to suppressing the emotions that Rose expresses openly and shamelessly. Simon has struggled all of his life to gain the money and social position that Rose has thrown away. He remains locked in a marriage to a woman who is concerned only with material things and who makes him unhappy, while Rose has divorced Christopher, the husband whom she married against her family’s bitter opposition. Although he abused her physically and verbally, she feels guilty for separating Christopher from their children, whom he loves and misses. Ironically, Christopher, because he has become successful in business, is now closer to Rose’s parents than she is.

As their friendship grows, Simon and Rose realize, separately, that they could be happy living together, even though there is no real sexual attraction between them. Yet Rose says nothing because she does not believe that she deserves happiness, and Simon cannot bring himself to speak of something...

(The entire section is 553 words.)

The Needle's Eye Bibliography

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Davidson, Arnold E. “Parables of Grace in The Needle’s Eye,” in Margaret Drabble: Golden Realms, 1982. Edited by Dorey Schmidt.

Dixson, Barbara. “Patterned Figurative Language in The Needle’s Eye,” in Margaret Drabble: Golden Realms, 1982. Edited by Dorey Schmidt.

Lay, Mary M. “Temporal Ordering in the Fiction of Margaret Drabble,” in Critique. XXI (1980), pp. 13-84.

Rose, Ellen Cronan. “Things That Have Never Been Written About: The Needle’s Eye,” in The Novels of Margaret Drabble: Equivocal Figures, 1980.

Sadler, Lynn Veach. Margaret Drabble, 1986.