The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The plot of The Crystal World is less significant than the spiritual movement of Sanders, from the purgatory represented by Port Matarre, a world of black-and-white choices but mixed motives, to the shimmering certainty of the jungle landscape. The landscape dominates the story, and J. G. Ballard takes great care in depicting its feel. The central characters serve as mere extensions of Sanders’ relationship with his environment. The characters are symbols, not well-rounded human beings. Those symbols picture a series of reconciliations of the human psyche in all of its variety with the kind of timelessness offered by the engulfing crystals. “I don’t take sides between Ventress and Thorensen,” Sanders tells Louise Peret. “Isolated now they’re both grotesques, but perhaps the forest will bring them together.”

Peret is in her twenties, with bright, observant eyes. She wears a white suit and is the counterpart of the dark Suzanne, whom she resembles. Peret’s sunglasses divide her face into the seen and unseen, representing for Sanders some kind of choice he must make. It is March 21, the equinox, when day and night are of equal length, and Sanders, precariously balanced, is about to choose.

Suzanne Clair was the reason for Sanders’ journey to Mont Royal. She is a somber beauty, a decade older than Peret. Sanders had been unable to resolve his affair with Suzanne, to give himself fully to her. Suzanne represents Sanders’ dark side, his mixed motives, his fear that “he might be more attracted by the idea of leprosy, and whatever it unconsciously represented, than he imagined.”


(The entire section is 674 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Dr. Edward Sanders

Dr. Edward Sanders, the assistant director of a leper hospital. A gray-haired, unkempt man of forty, he has spent fifteen years in Africa, ten at the leper hospital. Uneasy because of a mysterious letter from his former mistress, Suzanne Clair, Sanders goes to Mont Royal to check on her. There, he risks death from violent men as well as from a rapidly spreading plague that crystallizes all living things. Although he escapes with the help of a jeweled cross, he eventually returns to the crystal forest, where he had for the first time felt whole.

Suzanne Clair

Suzanne Clair, the wife of Max Clair and formerly the mistress of Sanders. A tall, dark woman in her thirties, she had been beautiful. When Sanders finds her, she bears the unmistakable signs of leprosy. She is nevertheless ecstatically happy in the crystal forest, where she leads a train of followers.

Dr. Max Clair

Dr. Max Clair, Suzanne’s husband, formerly a colleague of Sanders. A small, plump man in early middle age, he now acts erratically, turning away lepers from his hospital at Mont Royal so that they will become crystallized and die.

Louise Peret

Louise Peret, a French journalist. A broad-hipped, beautiful girl in her twenties, with dark hair and gray eyes, she looks much like a younger Suzanne. Although she becomes Sanders’ mistress and cares for him in his illness, she...

(The entire section is 482 words.)