The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Hannah is the unicorn of the title, a rare and mysterious creature who enchants all around her but who is inaccessible to everyone. Both whore and goddess, murderess and saint, she is either a wretched prisoner or a willing recluse. Unknowable and unreachable, she enchants all around her, and in the love that each character feels for her is encompassed the full range of human affection. Since her reality is impossible to know, she becomes the reflection of each character’s fantasy about her. Like the unicorn, she is a test of the purity and innocence of the others in her own guilt and suffering.

In many ways, the lesser figures at Gaze are as mysterious as their mistress. Gerald is sexual magnetism and power, and few escape his appeal. Long associated with the husband figure (Peter never appears except as a corpse), Gerald is also surrogate master at Gaze, and his domination of Jamesie is emblematic of his dark and unconventional control over the house. Jamesie is the elfin page who has been corrupted by Gerald, and his older sister, Violet, is bitter and contemptuous of the household she keeps; she is Gerald’s female counterpart, actualized in her attempted lesbian seduction of Marian. Denis Nolan, having replaced Jamesie as page to Hannah, is a Lawrentian “natural man,” an embodiment of the hard beauty of the local region, as well as a bridge to Riders.

As characters, both Pip and Alice Lejour are less fully developed than those in...

(The entire section is 497 words.)

The Unicorn Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Hannah Crean-Smith

Hannah Crean-Smith, nominally the mistress of Gaze Castle, a large and forbidding nineteenth century house situated near the black sandstone cliffs of western Ireland’s coastline. Hannah, a lovely golden-haired woman who is no longer young nor yet middle-aged, is restricted to the castle because of an indiscretion that she committed almost nine years before the story begins. Having married Peter Crean-Smith before she was twenty years old, she then had a two-year affair with Philip “Pip” Lejour, a neighbor. After being discovered by Peter, who was more frequently absent than present, she is said to have tried to kill him by pushing him over a cliff, after which she was imprisoned in the house and her husband left for New York. She has not seen him since, but he is rumored to be returning soon. Pampered and indulged for their own selfish purposes by the staff and a few other persons, Hannah nevertheless is a prisoner, arrested in time, fearful of the world outside the castle, and apparently content to live in an alcoholic haze, childlike and unchanging, like an enchanted princess.

Marian Taylor

Marian Taylor, who is in her late twenties, recently a schoolmistress and now a companion and tutor to Hannah Crean-Smith. Having decided that her relationship with Geoffrey would never go beyond affectionate friendship, Marian answered an advertisement that suggested change and adventure. She is astonished to learn that instead of a child her charge is a beautiful woman of about her own age. Marian quickly overcomes her initial apprehension and is soon as devoted to this appealing, unusual person as everyone else in the household seems to be. The other household members, however, all play a role in keeping Hannah quietly content, dependent, and totally deprived of freedom. When a rescue attempt fails miserably, Marian, shaken by grief and acceptance, decides to return to the world of reality.

Gerald Scottow

Gerald Scottow, the head keeper of the castle and of Hannah. Once Peter Crean-Smith’s lover, he now holds young Jamesie Evercreech in a similar thralldom. In his early forties, he is a big, handsome man, with a powerful, domineering manner slightly disguised by a courteous, reserved exterior. A local man, he is reputed to have supernatural powers commonly ascribed to the “fairy folk” of the region. His dominion over Hannah and the staff is absolute, even during his frequent and unexplained absences. Marian is both attracted to and repelled by him. Having incurred the hatred and anger of everyone through his cruel and brutal...

(The entire section is 1076 words.)