Lizzie Eustace, a wealthy and beautiful young widow who is much the center of attention in London society. Prior to her brief marriage to Sir Florian Eustace, she was the impoverished daughter of Admiral Greystock, an elderly and dissolute retired naval officer who was, as the narrator states, “in his later life much perplexed by the possession of a daughter.” Lizzie is nineteen when her father dies, and it is painfully evident that she has grown up to become a self-centered, amoral person, bored with the Victorian virtues intended as a guide for the conduct and training of proper young women. Whereas other young women seek to prepare themselves for husbands of virtuous character and position in the community, Lizzie is obsessed with a romantic ideal and longs for a Byronic hero, a dark and subtly dangerous “corsair” to carry her off into a vaguely outlined life of ecstasy and excitement. Her selfishness and her many failed attempts at manipulating others take on comic rather than sinister proportions in the course of the novel.
Frank Greystock, a young barrister and newly elected member of Parliament for the conservative party. Frank’s father is a clergyman, the dean of Bobsborough, and the family is not wealthy. Frank therefore is faced with the necessity of marrying someone with the financial means to further his career. The apparent dilemma lies in the fact that Frank loves...
(The entire section is 516 words.)