The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The architecture of Cronin’s novel is not complicated. It progresses from start to finish in a straight line. It employs no radical or avant-garde literary techniques. Cronin’s work enjoys so much popularity that by 1958, seven million copies of his books had been sold, exclusive of translations, which account for another large body of sales (Russian translations alone having sold three million copies by the early 1960’s).

This remarkable popularity is accounted for largely by the fact that Cronin is a master of characterization. His conflicting characters evoke and sustain the kind of popular interest that the characters on television soap operas such as Dallas and Falcon Crest have in the 1980’s, despite their obvious differences.

Andrew Manson is the innocent, sincere, hardworking professional that people wish every doctor might be. He marries the compassionate, attractive Christine, who is cast from the same mold as the idealistic teacher in Emlyn Williams’ The Corn Is Green (1938). Manson is pitted against the forces of ignorance and evil that plague society. He is ahead of his time, and he often has to pay the penalty for being so advanced.

Juxtaposed to Manson is the dying Dr. Page, a doddering old man who seems never to have been a very good doctor. His wife is domineering, avaricious, ignorant, and unjust, quite the opposite of Christine. When Manson leaves Blaenelly, he finds the...

(The entire section is 490 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Andrew Manson

Andrew Manson, the central character. Coming from a background of poverty, he attends the University of Dundee with the help of an academic prize and graduates as a medical doctor. He accepts a position as an assistant to Dr. Edward Page in the coal-mining community of Blaenelly in Wales. He is the latest in a series of assistants who actually are expected to run the practice for Page for little remuneration. Manson is idealistic and works hard despite his growing sense of being exploited. He forms a close friendship with Philip Denny, a talented physician in the community, whose tendency to drink excessively makes him less than respectable. After Christine’s death, it is with the support of Denny that Manson is able to pull himself together, and they open a clinic for the treatment of lung disease.

Christine Manson

Christine Manson, née Barlow, a schoolteacher in Blaenelly. She meets Manson when he enters her schoolroom to protest her allowing an ill child to return to school. They are attracted to each other and marry. She tutors Andrew in languages to help him prepare for his advanced degrees. Throughout their marriage, she works to keep him committed to the ideals of his youth. Estranged when he is tempted by wealth and status, they are reconciled, but she dies in a street accident.

Edward Page

Edward Page, an elderly physician in Blaenelly. He has suffered a stroke...

(The entire section is 492 words.)