The delineation of characters is the heart of Margaret Drabble’s achievement as a novelist. Both Simon and Rose are presented in complete detail; their unhappy childhoods, which made them the adults they have become, are described fully through flashbacks. Simon’s discomfort at his wife’s dinner parties is made clear, as is Rose’s preference for quiet evenings in her shabby living room over the social events to which she is still invited. Simon is depicted as an admirably moral man who willingly assists others but also as a man who cannot act on even his best impulses. When Rose tells him of her plan to surrender the children, Simon knows that there must be a way to dissuade her and to convince her to live with him, an arrangement which would make them both happy, but he allows her to leave his office without saying anything. At the end, he makes no objection to Rose’s reconciliation with Christopher, even though he knows that it will not make Rose happy.
Rose is a fascinating character. Her rejection of her family, her determination to marry Christopher and to give away her inheritance, demonstrate strength of character as well as a moral compulsion, acquired through the woman who was her nurse during Rose’s childhood. At the same time, Rose is in many ways weak. She has no compunction about imposing her troubles on Simon, she knows that she had helped precipitate Christopher’s violence by her own shrewishness, and she gives way too readily to her emotions. Despite these weaknesses, she is finally an...
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