Michael Meade, the undistinguished-looking founder and unofficial leader of Imber Court, a place next to a convent that is home to a community of religious laypersons. A good man who awaits a religious call, Michael is caught between the conflicting demands of leadership and compassion, of spiritual and sensual love. Now thirty-nine years old, he had been a schoolmaster. Despite his homosexuality, he hoped to become a priest. Led by his pupil Nick Frawley into a comparatively innocent love relationship, he was dismissed when Nick lied to the headmaster, thus preventing Michael from becoming a priest. Later, he was inspired by Abbess to found the Imber community. He plans a ceremony of dedication for a new bell to get needed publicity. When Nick arrives at Imber, Michael keeps his distance but tries to help him. Michael is attracted to Toby and kisses him, then apologizes. After the bell ceremony is ruined, he is embraced by Catherine. When told of Toby’s confession, he thinks mistakenly that it represents Nick’s revenge. He finds Nick’s dead body. After the community is dissolved, he remains at Imber Court, thinking of his love for Nick and feeling guilty for not expressing his love. Cared for by Dora, he regains some composure and leaves for London.
Dora Greenfield, a woman of about twenty-four years of age who came from London. Imaginative, impulsive, and careless, she offers an independent perspective on Imber Court. Because she is bored with her life and afraid of her husband, Paul, she leaves him. She has an affair with Noel Spens, then joins Paul at Imber Court, where her natural happy impulses are reproved. She is appalled by the idea of nuns shutting themselves away from the world. She briefly escapes to London but returns. When Toby tells her of the ancient bell in the lake, she realizes its importance and plans to raise it to surprise onlookers at the blessing ceremony. When she overhears Nick tell Noel about it, she makes the old bell ring and wakes up the neighborhood. the next day, she follows Catherine; when she tries to stop her from drowning, she is almost drowned herself. She stays behind when Paul goes to London, learns to swim, and cooks for...
(The entire section is 911 words.)