The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The odd and seemingly aberrant direction in the development of Aaron Sisson is at the center of this work; other characters are significant largely to the extent that their paths meet or diverge from his. A parting of the ways takes place in his life when he is thirty-three: The origins of this transformation are shown only indirectly, if at all. The antimony of settled domestic life as a colliers’ secretary and the pursuit of his musical practice in London and Italy is deepened by the open breach brought about by desertion of his wife and his later infidelities. Yet for all of his resolution to follow the imperatives of his being where art and love are concerned, he seems curiously indecisive. Indeed, when he is taken ill in London, Lilly rubs him down with oil, like a child; there are hints at times of a kind of regression. It requires Lilly’s prodding for him to go on to Italy. He seems susceptible to inner forces that impel him onward, oblivious to the passage of familiar time (Christmas, springtime, and much of the London opera season pass by unnoticed) but toward the end, he has pangs of remorse for leaving his wife, and he must look to Lilly once more when considering whether to continue as he has done in Italy.

The women in his life appear only at intervals. From what is known of her, Lottie Sisson was once beautiful but has become plain and practical, the more so from Aaron’s long familiarity with her. It would appear that she did little to precipitate a crisis in their married life; nor do her reactions to his...

(The entire section is 632 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Aaron Sisson

Aaron Sisson, a well-educated young man who decides not to teach but instead to return to the coal mine as a secretary to a miners’ union. He leaves behind the oppressive responsibility of his wife and three daughters to become an orchestra flutist in London and then leaves London for Italy, following Lilly. He finds Lilly in Florence, seeking him out to discuss a new modus vivendi.

Lottie Sisson

Lottie Sisson, his beautiful wife, with whom he has a contest of wills. She half desires and half resists his attempts to return home.

Millicent Sisson

Millicent Sisson, the oldest of their three daughters, who inherits the struggle of wills from her parents. At Christmas, she tries the patience of her father by testing the strength of a family tree decoration; it breaks.

Jim Bricknell

Jim Bricknell, a war veteran, the son of the local mine owner. He takes up Aaron as an interesting acquaintance who represents the real working class in his superficial commitment to cultural revolution. Bricknell repeatedly proclaims his need to be loved.

Josephine Ford

Josephine Ford, his fiancée, an artist. She has a short affair with Sisson in London.

Rawdon Lilly

Rawdon Lilly, an English gentleman whose cottage Bricknell visits on the strength of his own invitation. When Lilly criticizes Bricknell too...

(The entire section is 407 words.)