Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 593
Paul Pennyfeather, an inoffensive divinity student at Oxford University who is wrongly dismissed for indecent exposure after he is made the victim of a prank. He teaches at a school in Wales and is hired as vacation tutor for one of his pupils. He becomes engaged to the boy’s mother, Margot Beste-Chetwynde; just before the wedding, however, he is arrested and later is convicted of operating the international white-slave trade she runs. After she has arranged for his successful escape from prison, Paul is officially declared dead. Disguised by a heavy mustache, he returns to his college at Oxford to continue his interrupted study for the Church.
Sir Alastair Digby-Vaine-Trumpington
Sir Alastair Digby-Vaine-Trumpington, whose prank results in Paul’s dismissal from Oxford. Later, as Paul’s former fiancée’s boyfriend, he assists in Paul’s escape from prison.
Dr. Augustus Fagan
Dr. Augustus Fagan, the head of the inadequate Llanabba Castle school where Paul teaches. Fagan forsakes education for medicine and becomes the owner of the nursing home where Paul’s death certificate is signed by a drunken doctor.
Peter Beste-Chetwynde, one of Paul’s pupils.
Margot Beste-Chetwynde, his mother and Paul’s fiancée. Paul is convicted of her crimes. He spends the interval between his prison escape and his return to Oxford resting up at her villa on Corfu.
Mr. Prendergast, a master at Llanabba Castle school. Later he turns up as chaplain at Blackstone Gaol, where Paul is a prisoner. Prendergast is killed by a crazed inmate.
Captain Grimes, a scoundrel who is periodically in difficulties. To get out of trouble, he marries one of Fagan’s daughters and later fakes a drowning. He appears as Paul’s fellow prisoner. He is subsequently believed to have perished in the swamp while trying to escape, but Paul believes that the escape was successful.
Arthur Potts, whom Paul knew at Oxford. Working for the League of Nations, he shows an interest in Margot’s business affairs. He is chief witness for the prosecution at Paul’s trial.
Flossie Fagan, one of Fagan’s daughters, a vulgar young woman who wants to be married and is consequently useful to Grimes in getting out of trouble.
Diana Fagan, another of Fagan’s daughters, who economizes in sugar and soap.
Philbrick, the butler at Llanabba Castle and a confidence man. He tells varying stories about himself, claiming, among other things, that he is really Sir Solomon Philbrick, a millionaire shipowner. He flees Llanabba as he is about to be arrested on charges of false pretenses. At Blackstone Gaol, Paul finds Philbrick employed as a trusty.
Lord Tangent, a pupil at Llanabba. Acting as starter during an annual field sports meet, Prendergast accidentally shoots Lord Tangent in the heel. Lord Tangent dies of the infection.
Lady Circumference, Lord Tangent’s rude mother.
Lord Pastmaster, Margot’s impoverished brother-in-law, from whom she buys her country house, King’s Thursday.
Otto Silenus, an eccentric designer who changes King’s Thursday from the finest example of Tudor domestic architecture in England into a structure of concrete, glass, and aluminum.
Sir Humphrey Maltravers
Sir Humphrey Maltravers, minister of Transport; later Lord Metroland and the home secretary. He is...
(The entire section contains 844 words.)
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