The Characters (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
These fictional frames are extended by reference to various types of literature, each providing appropriate characters, cast from the resources of realism, folklore, mythology, and popular culture. Each of these characters is driven by one or two prevailing forces and contrasts or complements another character in the novel.
One stratum of characters—such as the narrator’s uncle and Anthony Lamont—represents workaday Dublin. With his unerring ear for the intonation and cliches of common speech, O’Brien renders a convincing, realistic image of their materialism, servitude, and philistinism; they have no appreciation of the wonders of the imagination which constitute the world they inhabit. A related group is made up of the narrator and his university student friends: The most intelligent of the rising generation of Irishmen, they represent various degrees of independence from staid society, although the avenues by which they express their departure from convention betray their own immaturity: excessive drink, coarse conversation, and strained efforts to impress with a little learning.
From Irish folklore come the Good Fairy and the Pooka, and from the popular romance of the American cowboy come the hired hands of William Tracy. These characters provide variant mythologizations of the archetypal struggle between Good and Evil, and the interweaving of their subplots, dialects, and Dublin city references develops the fantastic humor and...
(The entire section is 333 words.)
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
The narrator, unnamed, a none-too-diligent young uni-versity student in Dublin who is writing a novel about another author, Dermot Trellis. The narrator tells about his carping uncle, his fellow students, and his drinking and wasting of time. He reads from and comments on his developing novel.
Dermot Trellis, a character in the novel that the narrator is writing. Trellis is himself writing a novel to demonstrate the consequences of immorality. Trellis is a pimply and neurotic recluse who chooses to spend most of his time in bed. In the narrator’s story, the characters of Trellis’ novel rebel against the roles that Trellis has assigned to them, play out their own stories, and eventually attempt to kill Trellis. Trellis is saved when his servant, Teresa, enters his room, picks up some sheets of paper from the floor, and throws those pages that sustain the existence of the rebel characters into the fire.
John Furriskey, an original character concocted by Dermot Trellis. Furriskey, a well-built, dark, and clean-shaven man of medium height, is intended by the author to be the embodiment of immorality and rakishness, but he rebels. He marries the servant, Peggy, whom Trellis intended that he dishonor. Peggy has discovered that Trellis’ control over his characters is suspended when he sleeps. Furriskey conspires with the other characters first to...
(The entire section is 910 words.)