The nature of the characters in Nothing is determined by two factors: their social situation and Green’s self-conscious decision to delineate the characters primarily through dialogue. Given the facts that the characters are basically shallow or dull and that readers are not allowed into their minds, since all that can be known of them is from what they say, the characters seem to be nothing more than the somewhat brittle and boring surfaces that they project socially. A flat, two-dimensional sense of character is the result. No one is either very good or very bad; no one is torn by emotional or philosophical doubts; no one is heroic or villainous; in short, no one is very interesting. Rather, they are all recognizable types.
For example, Jane, the central character in what is really an ensemble performance of six characters, is beautiful and witty but spoiled and unscrupulous. Her manipulations to get John back and to break up her daughter’s marriage to John’s son constitute the main plot interest. John is a well-bred and well-dressed middle-aged man, but he is a snob. He is also easily manipulated by Jane. Liz, John’s mistress, is an embodiment of sexual indifference, apparently content to be passed from man to man. Dick, the last man to whom she is passed, is an apoplectic and pompous fool. They drift together, after being dropped by Jane and John, for lack of anything better to do.
The younger generation fares no better....
(The entire section is 482 words.)