Caleb Williams, a naïve, bookish, courageous, and incurably inquisitive secretary puzzled by his employer’s black moods and determined to trace them to their source. Having received Falkland’s confession, Caleb becomes Falkland’s prisoner until he escapes. Accused on a false charge of theft and jailed, he escapes, joins a thieves’ gang, leaves it, is rearrested on a theft charge, and is released when Falkland drops the charge. Relentlessly followed by Gines, Caleb finally makes a public charge of murder against Falkland who, touched by Caleb’s recital of his own miseries, confesses. The remorseful Caleb, feeling that he has saved his own good name only through contributing to Falkland’s death, resolves to live a better life.
Ferdinando Falkland, Caleb’s employer, a wealthy and highly respected squire intensely desirous of keeping his reputation. He is a considerate employer but is subject to uncharacteristic fits of distemper. Formerly a man of graceful manners and warm intelligence, he is secretly embittered by his difficulties with Tyrrel and troubled by his guilt over Tyrrel’s murder. Caleb’s nemesis until his better nature triumphs, Falkland confesses publicly and dies shortly afterward from his long inward torture.
Barnabas Tyrrel, Falkland’s enemy, a proud, jealous, combative man finally murdered by Falkland out of resentment for his cruelties.
Gines, a member of a thieves’ gang and Caleb’s enemy, responsible for his second arrest and the repeated exposure of his imprisonment.
Captain Raymond, the philosophical leader of the thieves’ gang.
Emily Melvile, Tyrrel’s cousin, saved by Falkland from death by fire and later from a forced marriage to Grimes. She finally dies as a result of Tyrrel’s continued cruelties.
Thomas, a servant of Falkland and a former neighbor of Caleb’s father. He helps Caleb escape from prison.
Collins, another of Falkland’s servants. He tells Caleb the story of Falkland’s early life.
Grimes, a clumsy, loutish tenant whom Tyrrel intends as Emily’s husband. When Grimes attempts to seduce Emily, Falkland saves her.
List of Characters
Mr. (John) Clare
A local poet and a friend of Falkland, Mr. Clare admonishes Falkland on his overvaluation of honor and reputation.
The chief administrator of Falkland's estate, Mr. Collins introduces Caleb to Falkland, who makes Caleb his secretary. It is Mr. Collins who informs Caleb of Falkland's history, but he is absent for most of the disturbing developments in Caleb's career throughout Volumes II and III. He reappears in Volume III and refuses to aid Caleb. He then dies of an illness developed during his stay in the West Indies.
Aristocratic by birth, and mainly benevolent and good, Falkland is the chief antagonist to Caleb Williams. Falkland's crime, guilt, and pursuit of Caleb change him significantly.
Mr. Forester is Falkland's elder half brother. Serving as a counterpoint to his idealistic brother, Forester is pragmatic and blunt. Convinced of Caleb's guilt, he has Caleb arrested and posts a reward for his arrest after he escapes.
Grimes is the son of a peasant and the instrument of Barnabas Tyrrel's anger toward his cousin, Emily. He assists in Tyrrel's plot to force Emily into an unwanted marriage with himself through kidnap and rape.
Originally one of the women who hopes to marry Tyrrel, Miss Hardingham gives Falkland the first dance at a ball, thus enraging Tyrrel. The ensuing confrontation between Falkland and Tyrrel threatens to break into an open altercation, and Miss Hardingham regrets her action.
Hawkins is an industrious tenant farmer who also owns a freehold on property left to him by his father. He occupies a middle level in county society, but his aspirations to rise in society are crushed by Tyrrel. He and his son are implicated in the murder of Tyrrel and are...
(The entire section is 2,932 words.)