Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Mary Hare

Mary Hare, the homely, unmarried daughter of an aristocratic Australian family. Despised by her father because of her awkwardness and lack of beauty, and ignored by her mother, who found the child a bother, Mary survived “what passed for childhood.” She has grown into a peculiar adulthood and lives alone in the dilapidated family mansion called Xanadu. Mary cannot relate to her fellow humans, so she turns to birds and animals, at times even to plants, for companionship as she wanders about the overgrown grounds of Xanadu, performing religious rites among nature. After gaining wholeness through her union with the other riders in the chariot, she simply disappears into the natural setting, which had become her refuge. As one rider of the chariot, Mary is thought to represent the quality of instinct.

Mordecai Himmelfarb

Mordecai Himmelfarb, a Jewish refugee from Germany who settled in Australia after World War II. Himmelfarb loses his wife in a concentration camp but manages to escape death himself, going first to Israel, then to Australia. He works on an assembly line in a suburban Sydney factory, and there on Maundy Thursday of Passion Week some of the other workers subject him to a mock crucifixion. Early the next morning, on Good Friday, he dies in a fire. After his headlong confrontation with evil in Nazi Germany and his subsequent wanderings, Himmelfarb (whose name in German suggests “ascension”) questions the existence of God. During his ordeal on the makeshift cross he becomes conscious of a stillness and clarity, at the center of which his God is reflected. As another rider in the chariot, Himmelfarb is considered to represent intellect.

Ruth Godbold


(The entire section is 721 words.)