The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Because Concluding focuses on the abstract theme of individualism versus conformity in a fantasylike way, the characters are not presented in a realistic manner but rather are representative of the value systems on which the novel focuses. Rock is just that—a rock of individualism. Thus, he is the heroic father figure of the novel who champions the rights of the individual, although he certainly is not the conventional hero of antiutopian fiction. Edge is the complete bureaucrat, concerned with squashing individualism wherever she finds it. Birt and Elizabeth are embodiments of individual love, the only hope of personal escape from institutional conformity. Elizabeth is somewhat deranged by the strictures of the welfare state but believes that marriage is the answer to her emotional problems. Mary is the most problematic character, for the reader knows her only by her absence and thus can only speculate on her nature and her motives.

Although characters are largely abstractions in this novel, they are not without interest. Rock is not a complex personality, but in his staunch refusal to give in to the powers of the state, represented by the ineffectual Edge, he does emerge as a heroic figure, if for no other reason than the fact that he endures. His granddaughter derives her interest from the fact that her need for love defines her as one who understands what individualism really means, even though the stifling uniformity of the welfare state has almost driven her mad. In such a world as Green depicts, perhaps these two characters represent the only kind of longing and the only kind of hope for heroism that are possible.

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Mr. Rock

Mr. Rock, the central character, a seventy-six-year-old man who is white-haired, hard of hearing, and bespectacled. As a young man, he made a great scientific discovery, and now he is being considered for election to the Academy of Sciences. He enjoys living in his cottage on the grounds of a state school for girls with his granddaughter, whom he loves. He is gruffly kind to the schoolgirls who are fond of his pets: a cat, a goose, and a pig. Moira often comes to visit him. Rock is concerned when two of the girls are missing and searches for Mary when others cover up her absence.

Miss Mabel Edge

Miss Mabel Edge, one of the two principals of the Institute, a state school for girls. Short, thin, and white-haired, with white hands, she schemes to get rid of Rock to have his cottage for a still-to-be hired handyman. Miss Edge is a spinster who angers Miss Marchbanks with her high-handed ways. At a break from the annual dance, Miss Edge, stimulated by cigarettes, indirectly asks Rock to marry her. She is furious when, on the way out, he laughs. Feared by all the staff, Miss Edge has only one friend, Miss Baker.

Miss Hermione Baker

Miss Hermione Baker, the other principal of the school, a short, fat woman. Like Miss Edge and some of the other bureaucrats, she fears that some complaint will be made against them, and perhaps they will be forced to leave the beautiful estate on which the school is situated. Miss Baker and Miss Edge are colleagues and confederates in the scheme against Rock, but Miss Baker is more restrained and less frantic. She talks often about the farm she knew as a child.

Elizabeth Rock

Elizabeth Rock, Rock’s thirty-five-year-old granddaughter. She is recovering from a nervous breakdown. She is having an affair with Sebastian Birt and wants to marry him and live with him in her grandfather’s cottage. She does not accept the fact that because of state regulations, Sebastian will be reassigned if they marry. Elizabeth will not allow Sebastian to criticize her grandfather, and she will not allow Rock to criticize Sebastian. At the dance, she plasters herself against Sebastian, not realizing how shocking this is to the principals, who call it a display of animalism.

Sebastian Birt

Sebastian Birt, a first-year economics tutor at the school. Fat and very short, he loves Elizabeth. Like all the...

(The entire section is 1003 words.)