Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 609
Alan Norman, an honest and sincere young villager. Chosen by lot in an annual ceremony, he is promised a portion of the estate and the hand of the daughter of the deceased master of the lands of the English village of Pressan Ambo if he can, unlike the others who have tried, successfully complete the quest to find the missing son and heir, Sir Francis Crewe. Alan’s simple acceptance of his task and his sustaining dream of marrying Iris, Sir Francis’ sister, make him an unquestioning Everyman who will be transformed by his travels in postwar Europe from the prototypical unquestioning good citizen to one who learns something of the treachery and dishonesty of governments, whether national or local. As a hero, he is distinguished by his steadiness and single-mindedness of purpose, not so much acting as being acted upon.
Sir Francis Crewe
Sir Francis Crewe, a baronet, the missing heir who is literally the dog beneath the skin, for in his disillusionment with the modern world after the end of the war, he hides in a costume of a dog’s skin and sees the world from the ground up. He attaches himself to Alan Norman after years of learning what the Pressan Ambo villagers are like; hidden as he is by his role as a dog, people speak freely in front of him. He makes the journey with Alan to the Continent, where he experiences at first hand the politics of the village enlarged in national terms of fascism, mind control, and corrupt capitalism. Near the end of the quest, after their return to England, he reveals himself to Alan and advises him not to buy into the rewards offered by the village, detailing the perfidiousness of the villagers until one of them stabs him in response. The ways in which the village powers cover up his death confirm everything about which he has warned Alan.
Miss Iris Crewe
Miss Iris Crewe, of Honeypot Hall, the fair lady who, as Sir Francis Crewe’s sister, is the prize promised to the successful quester in this mock epic. She is a creature of her time and place and not capable of being faithful to her vow. Self-centered, spoiled, and shallow, she, like many of the characters, is without depth and roundness.
The Vicar of Pressan Ambo
The Vicar of Pressan Ambo, a member of the power structure of the village. He uses religion as an instrument for conformity and control of the masses and willingly enters into the conspiracy at the end of the play, lying to maintain the “reputation” of the village and preserve the status quo.
The General, who, like the vicar, is an oppressor. He is a representative of fascism, of the military mind that controls through force, under the guise of nationalism and patriotism. His vision of the world is the advance of the British Empire at whatever cost. Now retired, he rules his home and his wife like a brigade, with a hand of iron. He involves himself in the concealment of the death of Sir Francis Crewe in the end by pretending that the heir was never found.
Journalists, British reporters forThe Evening Moon and The Thunderbolt. They follow Alan on his quest because they sense a good story. Worldly-wise, they provide foils to Alan’s simplicity and provide a source of commentary on the frightening political tendencies of the postwar world. Ultimately, however, they are perhaps more culpable than other characters, because in spite of their knowledge and perspective, they preserve the status quo by choosing to report what their readers already want to read.
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