The pages of Capricornia swarm with characters. The author does not develop them, though, in much psychological detail. What the reader gets are the externals: development through action and authorial commentary.
One of the chief means Herbert uses to suggest the distinguishing characteristics of many of the characters in the novel—especially the minor ones— is naming. Thus, the reader encounters Judge Pondrosass and troopers O’Theef and O’Crimnell. The local magistrate is Paddy Larsney, and two clergymen are named Randter and Prayter. Through this obtrusive device, Herbert is making a point about the inherent corruption of the local officials and the greed and mean-spiritedness of the inhabitants generally. The emblematic names at times create an almost allegorical quality in the work. They are a constant reminder of the author’s mocking presence.
The only characters that are developed in much detail in the novel are the Shillingsworths, especially Oscar and Norman, and Tim O’Cannon. Each, however, is absent for long sections of the novel. Since the novel is as much about the place as the people, to be away from Capricornia is to disappear from the reader’s attention.
Oscar Shillingsworth emerges from Capricornia as a failure in most of his endeavors, a common fate among characters in the novel. At the outset, he becomes overly conscious of his rising status in Capricornian society and seeks to enhance it through marriage and through the purchase of Red...
(The entire section is 624 words.)