The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

In Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, only the protagonist is a fully developed character. Not only is Gerald Middleton present in most of the scenes, observing, thinking, and reacting, but also his memories reveal the past. In the first part of the book, for example, Gerald escapes the deadly Christmas festivities at his wife’s home by re-creating scenes from his youth, early marriage, and affair with Dollie. Thus Wilson creates a complete person, with his observations, his memories, and his excuses.

The other characters are more two-dimensional, reminiscent of those of Charles Dickens or William Thackeray or, sometimes, of a comedy of manners. Mrs. Salad coos in cockney, castigates the eternal “trashy lot,” even when she herself has been picked up for shoplifting, and eventually turns to painting handkerchiefs which have some resemblance to modern art. The sad fate of Lillian Portway, Elvira’s grandmother, at the hands of her companion’s son would be more touching had she not been a grotesque throughout the book, the actress always onstage, as well as the still-angry suffragette. Robin’s wife is a flat character, whose speech, full of rules for life, reflects her unimaginative, thoughtless, and uncompromising attitude. Clearly, she merely parrots what she heard as a child.

The most obnoxious, as well as the most exaggerated, character in the novel is Ingeborg Middleton. Deliberately childlike, she has a sentimental script in mind...

(The entire section is 541 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Gerald Middleton

Gerald Middleton, a retired Oxford professor of medieval history and author of the definitive study of Canute. Middleton, despite the respect of many of his peers, considers himself to be a personal and professional failure and lives in a state of mild depression. His conscience forces him to make a series of decisions that set him in search of truth and revitalize him as a man and as a historian. Though ultimately successful professionally, he fails to rebuild meaningful relationships with his family.

Ingeborg Middleton

Ingeborg Middleton, Gerald’s wife, whom he married when he was turned down by Dollie. Tall and of ample figure, she likes to be surrounded by gaiety. She tries to manage things and people around her and demands affection from her family. Inge ignores events and other things that she finds unpleasant, including an affair between Gerald and Dollie.

Robin Middleton

Robin Middleton, the eldest son of Gerald and Inge. He is a company director of the family firm from which Gerald and the rest of the family derive much of their wealth. He is unhappy in his marriage to the social-climbing Marie-Hélène, who is a Catholic and will not consider a divorce. He is carrying on an affair with his brother John’s secretary, Elvira Portway.

John Middleton

John Middleton, the younger son of Gerald and Inge. He is a radio celebrity and journalist with political ambitions. John is making a name for himself by conducting an exposé of the persecution of a small-market gardener by the civil service. John is...

(The entire section is 667 words.)