Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 438
Edward Chamberlayne, a middle-aged lawyer. Faced with the prospect of having to meet people without the aid of his wife, who has just left him, he discovers that he cares nothing for the young woman with whom he has been having an affair and that he definitely wants his wife to return. Later, after he thinks he has had a nervous breakdown, he sees a psychiatrist and comes to realize and accept the fact that he is a mediocre man who is afraid that he is incapable of really loving anyone. From this point, he begins to build a happy life.
Lavinia Chamberlayne, his wife. Having put herself under the care of a psychiatrist, Lavinia is allowed to believe that she has been to a sanatorium and been cured. After she has returned to her husband, the psychiatrist unexpectedly brings them together in a new and revealing relationship. Lavinia finally realizes that she has always been afraid that she is completely unlovable. She, too, can then adjust and build a satisfactory life with Edward.
Julia Shuttlethwaite, a friend of the Chamberlaynes. Although she gives the impression of being a meddlesome old woman with only a few of her wits about her, she is the one who contrives to have the Chamberlaynes take the action that they do.
Celia Coplestone, a sensitive young poet. Having fancied herself in love with Edward Chamberlayne, she is somewhat shocked when she realizes his true character. She is also led by Julia and Alex to the psychiatrist and finds her purpose in life through him. After a short period of training, she enters a religious order and becomes a nurse on an island in the East, where she is killed by the natives.
Peter Quilpe, a shy young man in love with Celia. He also has had an affair with Lavinia. When he realizes that Celia does not care for him, he goes to California and makes a success of himself in the film industry.
Alexander (Alex) MacColgie Gibbs
Alexander (Alex) MacColgie Gibbs, another friend of the Chamberlaynes who, like Julia, gives the impression of being meddlesome. He is also a part of the conspiracy between Julia and the psychiatrist that ultimately straightens out the lives of the Chamberlaynes and Celia.
Sir Henry Harcourt-Reilly
Sir Henry Harcourt-Reilly, who at first is known only as an unidentified guest at a cocktail party in the Chamberlaynes’ flat. He is later revealed to all as the psychiatrist who helps them to solve their problems. He sets up, with Julia and Alex, the conspiracy involving the Chamberlaynes.