The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Because he is the narrator of the novel, Neil Griffon shapes the reader’s perception of both him and the story. He is a self-made man who has succeeded despite his father, who has always been disapproving of and harsh to him. At seventeen, and after attending Eton, Neil struck out on his own. He became a successful dealer in antiques, and after that a financial consultant specializing in saving firms on the verge of bankruptcy. At thirty-four he is very much his own man and has learned to accept his father for what he is. Neil has, in short, matured to the point where he knows that the value of independence lies not in rebellion so much as in development, for which one is personally responsible. This puts him in a position to tutor Alessandro.

Alessandro has had an upbringing different from Neil’s. His father has spoiled him and accustomed him to accept the violent removal of anyone who stands in his way. Since he can get anything he wants, he has a false view of independence. He does not realize that he depends wholly on his father, not on himself. Neil changes this. Using the same patience and tact he brings to his business dealings and to his own father, he shows Alessandro how to believe in his own native abilities and to trust in his own judgment.

Neville Griffon and Enso Rivera function as antagonists in the novel. Both are blind to the needs of others, especially their sons, and this threatens their own achievements. Neville,...

(The entire section is 562 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Neil Griffon

Neil Griffon, a financial consultant temporarily acting as head of Rowley Lodge stables. At the age of thirty-four, he is attractive and extremely intelligent. He has a highly developed business sense that has allowed him to make a small fortune of his own. He is called on to look after Rowley Lodge stables, where he grew up, after his father is in an automobile accident. His new position puts him in direct confrontation with Enso Rivera, who is obsessed with the idea of having his son Alessandro ride the favorite, Archangel, in the Derby. Despite threats from Enso, including attacks on three horses and having his own collarbone brutally smashed, he manages to avoid giving in to this unreasonable demand. Ultimately, he proves himself a success at managing the stable, and he weans Alessandro away from the insane influence of his father at great personal risk.

Alessandro Rivera

Alessandro Rivera, an apprentice jockey. He is young, arrogant, and completely self-centered. He decides almost as a whim that he wants to ride the favorite horse, Archangel, in the Derby, despite the fact that his only experience has been riding in a few amateur races in Europe. By using threats, his father has him taken as an apprentice at the stable where Archangel is trained. He offends everyone at the stable. It is only after his father’s thugs destroy two horses that he begins to see that his own actions are unacceptable. Realizing that Alessandro really wants to be a jockey, Neil Griffon is able to teach him...

(The entire section is 634 words.)