The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Rickie Masters is a charismatic character, a splendid actor and liar when it comes to dealing with the women in his life, but he is also, as another character says, a “tragic figure—or pretty nearly.” He is a man with whom women seem to fall in love at first sight. There is something about this handsome, sweet, prosperous, and sad man. He is not “exactly reckless but-but any moment about to do himself no good; clearly though indefinably less able than most chaps to-to take calculations and precautions, less concerned than most to provide adequate safeguards against pain to himself.” Rickie seems not only a victim of his own character but also a victim of fate; as Dinah says: “He was a romantic orphan boy, irrevocably out of the top drawer. He was never at home in his situation . . . the contemporary one, the crack-up—not just the general human situation of wondering why you’re born.”

Rickie knows better than anyone that he is not what people expect him to be. He believes that he “must have been born with some congenital defect of vision: anyway even in the nursery I couldn’t see life steady: there always seemed something coming up to fog the issues.” He is unable to lead the life to which he committed himself when he married Madeleine because he loves Dinah, and he is unable to respond to the passion of his life because he cannot bring himself to break with his code of decency. He has “thrown up the sponge, bled out his life or...

(The entire section is 591 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Rickie Masters

Rickie Masters, a well-to-do English businessman. A large, handsome man with brown hair and striking blue eyes, he has a boyish quality that makes him attractive to women. After marrying Madeleine Burkett, he falls in love with her younger sister, Dinah Burkett. After he breaks off the affair with Dinah, he feels unable to love anyone. Eventually, he develops ulcers, which cause his death in 1944.

Madeleine Burkett Masters

Madeleine Burkett Masters, the wife of Rickie Masters. A graying woman in her early forties when the story begins, shortly after Rickie’s death, she has always been considered a beauty. She is tall and slender, with a rather loud voice and a frequently irritable manner. She has been a devoted mother and still grieves for her eldest son, Anthony, who was killed in North Africa during the war. After meeting Dinah at their mother’s deathbed, she becomes reconciled with her sister, who consoles Madeleine in the loss of her longtime lover. At the end of the story, Madeleine agrees to leave her daughter Clarissa in Dinah’s care so that she can visit her surviving son, Colin, in South Africa.

Dinah Burkett Hermann

Dinah Burkett Hermann, an artist and a Marxist, Madeleine’s younger sister and Rickie’s mistress. A small woman with classic features and large, dark eyes, she strikes men as mysterious. After her child by Rickie dies at birth, Dinah gives up the desire to live and is brought back only by Rickie’s devotion. After Rickie breaks off the affair, she marries Jo Hermann, whom she loves deeply but who is killed in the Spanish Civil War. Eventually, she sinks into poverty, into an affair with a former convict, and into self-destroying alcoholism. Robbed and abandoned by her young lover and spurned by Rickie, she finally turns to Dr. Ernest Selbig, who drinks with her,...

(The entire section is 772 words.)