The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Maurice Bendrix, the first-person protagonist, is sometimes an unreliable narrator, for he is so consumed by jealousy, self-pity, self-hatred, and bitterness, that he measures everyone else by himself. Accordingly, he often misjudges Sarah and Henry Miles, and he certainly misjudges God. Bendrix confesses that from time to time “a demon” takes possession of his brain. Though an atheist, Bendrix can believe in a personal devil, which is the enemy of love. On their first meeting, Sarah observes to him, “You do seem to dislike a lot of people.” A problem with the novel is how to make such a character sympathetic. Bendrix himself believes he is unlovable except to a parent or a god. He quarrels so frequently and pointlessly with Sarah that it is difficult to see what she loves in him. He does, however, have some redeeming features-an ironic sense of humor, the analytic intelligence of a novelist, his reluctant sympathy for Parkis and for Henry, with whom he becomes closer in their mutual grief for the woman they both loved, and at bottom his love for Sarah and his potential love for God. To Smythe, Bendrix says that he believes in nothing, “except now and then” he has “moments of hope.” He is redeemed also because Sarah cares for him; she writes in her journal that Maurice “thinks he hates, and loves, loves all the time-even his enemies.” Furthermore, he is aware of his faults, confesses them to the reader, and admits he is “lost in a strange region” without a map.

Sarah Miles, to whom Bendrix was initially attracted because of her beauty, her...

(The entire section is 645 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Maurice Bendrix

Maurice Bendrix, the narrator, a cynical novelist usually addressed by his surname. Bendrix always sees the worst in people. Suffering from sudden, inexplicable rejection by his mistress and obsessed with her memory, he decides to hire a private detective to investigate her after her husband confides to Bendrix his fear that she may be having an affair. On learning that she is innocent and even saintly, he tries to revive their love. When she flees him into death, he is left with her memory, her example, and his friendship with her husband, factors that are at war with his characteristic cynicism when the novel ends.

Sarah Miles

Sarah Miles, Bendrix’s mistress and the wife of a civil servant. A beautiful, long-haired woman with a great intensity of feeling, she is overcome when Bendrix appears to have been killed in a London blitz. She makes a vow that if he is allowed to live, she will discontinue their relationship, and she keeps this vow. The suffering that results finally leads her to true piety as well as to death by neglected pneumonia. After her death, she appears to work miracles, and her possessions seem curative. She is perceived by her loved ones as a saint, and her influence for good grows.

Henry Miles

Henry Miles, a highly placed British civil servant. Although he takes his wife for granted, he does love her in his way. He is too innocent to be aware of her...

(The entire section is 520 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Although initially intending to befriend Henry and Sarah Miles so that he could garner knowledge about a civil servant for an upcoming book,...

(The entire section is 449 words.)