Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 455
Michael is the founder and head of the Imber Court intentional community. A layperson, Michael is a devout man who planned to become a priest, but his plans were derailed when he lost his teaching job because of a romance with his student, Nick Fawley. Nearing 40, he channels his religious feelings into Imber, but he cannot suppress his sexual desires, which lead to him kissing Toby. When the community falls apart, he moves to London.
In her mid-twenties, Dora is married to Paul; she leaves him and has an affair with Noel Spens. Dora then moves to Imber Court, where Paul is now living. After learning of the lost ancient bell from Toby, she hatches a plan to rescue it. Dora saves Catherine from drowning and helps Michael through his spiritual crisis. She later leaves Paul again and makes plans to teach art in London.
Paul is more than 10 years older than his wife, Dora. His abusive behavior prompted Dora to leave him prior to the start of the novel. An art historian, he is at Imber studying medieval manuscripts and becomes interested in the ancient bell’s inscriptions. His jealousy of Toby and Michael leads to his second separation from Dora.
Noel is a journalist and Dora’s former lover. He writes a negative article about Imber Court that contributes to its demise.
Toby is a young man about to enter Oxford University. He lives at Imber Court with Nick Fawley. Part of the plot concerns his confusion over his sexual identity, shown through his feelings for Michael and Dora. He helps Dora raise the ancient bell. After a jealous Nick threatens to reveal Toby's relationships with both Dora and Michael, Toby confesses everything to James and leaves Imber to begin his studies at Oxford.
Nick Fawley is Catherine's troubled twin brother. When Nick was a teenager, he began a romantic relationship with his teacher, Michael, which led to Michael getting fired and establishing Imber Court. Now a solitary, depressed man, Nick becomes a member of Imber Court thanks to Catherine's intervention, where he jealously sabotages the relationship between Toby and Michael. Opposing Catherine’s plan to enter the convert, Nick sabotages the bridge to destroy the bell ceremony. Nick ultimately commits suicide.
Catherine Fawley is a deeply devout, lovely woman about to enter Imber Abbey. She is Nick Fawley's twin sister. She is in love with Michael. Catherine almost drowns herself after the disastrous bell episode but is saved by Dora. She then returns to London to seek therapy for her mental health issues.
The Abbess of Imber Abbey
The Abbess encourages Michael to establish the Imber Court community, but she later participates in having it disbanded.