The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The relationship of Harriet and Guy Pringle embodies a principle of continuity in the face of the most sweeping social and political changes. The skill with which Manning treats this subject depends chiefly on the way in which she uses narrative point of view, formulating a slightly different angle from which to look at the Pringles in each of the books in The Balkan Trilogy. She objectifies the treatment of Guy and Harriet by restricting the omniscience of the third-person point of view in each of the novels to the consciousness of one or more focal characters, and then she juxtaposes these figures with foils who serve to indicate their strengths and limitations.

In The Great Fortune, the third-person narrator enters the minds of Harriet and of Prince Yakimov, the character who serves as her chief foil in this novel. There is little to choose between Yakimov’s concern with food, drink, and a comfortable place to sleep and Harriet’s inability to give herself to a cause or a friendship the way her husband, Guy, can do. In The Spoilt City, Manning shifts the point of view from Harriet’s to Guy’s mind toward the end of the novel in order to confirm the impression that she is having a nervous breakdown. Her preoccupation with the danger in their situation produces stress, and Guy decides to send Harriet to Greece as early as possible. Manning restricts the third-person narrator of Friends and Heroes to Harriet and...

(The entire section is 518 words.)