Born in Captivity Characters

John Wain

The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Charles Lumley is averse to violence, asking only to be left alone while he finds a way of life in which he will not feel trapped. His anger can be triggered, however, generally with comic results. Sometimes Lumley’s response is physical, as when he drenches the pushy relatives of his first girlfriend with dishwater. More often, it is verbal, but once out of control, Lumley goes so far beyond the tolerated limits of British upper-class nastiness that his targets are driven to violence, as when the infuriated medical students throw him out the door.

Lumley’s self-control also fails when he meets an appealing woman. Perhaps only the chance absence of his first girlfriend saves him from a trap. Alone with her detestable relatives, he sees her likeness to them and flees the relationship without seeing her. Later he almost settles down with a pleasant young woman from the hospital where they both work. Only his memory of Veronica and the delayed recognition that he does have intellectual needs prevent him from settling for a dull working-class existence. He does not escape Veronica “Roderick,” however, who later calls herself “Moll Flanders.” Even after he is forced to admit that her relationship with her uncle is as phony as her name, even though he realizes that a commitment to her will undoubtedly plunge him into new difficulties, Lumley chooses love and the beautiful Veronica.

If Lumley is irrational in his perceptions of women, he...

(The entire section is 419 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Charles Lumley

Charles Lumley, a job seeker. A young man in his twenties whose appearance is as unimpressive as his university degree, Lumley has no money and no idea what to do with his life. Highly imaginative, he often defends himself by making up outlandish tales. At other times, when pressed, he abandons his usual apologetic manner and gentlemanly self-effacement to become verbally abusive or physically violent. In his attempt to avoid living up to his parents’ expectations, he takes jobs as a window washer, a driver, a hospital orderly, a bouncer, and a chauffeur before finally becoming a radio gag writer and, despite his best intentions, a financial success.

George Hutchins

George Hutchins, a university fellow. In his early twenties, he has a heavy build and a ruddy complexion. Hardworking, humorless, and ambitious, he is ashamed of his working-class parents. To distance himself from his background, he has imitated his professors, acquiring an upper-class accent, a pipe, and the affectation of modesty. His encounters with Lumley always prove disastrous. When he appears at the Braceweight estate as a tutor, he causes an accident that costs Lumley his job as chauffeur. Later, angry because of some harmless prank telegrams, he frames Lumley for theft.

Veronica Roderick

Veronica Roderick, who sometimes calls herself Moll Flanders, Lumley’s beloved. A small brunette in her twenties, she...

(The entire section is 602 words.)