The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The central character, Anthony Beavis, is clearly an autobiographical figure and a mouthpiece for the issues which occupied Huxley’s mind in the mid-1930’s.

Throughout the novel, Anthony is acutely aware of his own weaknesses. Even as a child, he is skilled at concealing his true feelings, and yet he dislikes himself for doing so. He chooses his aristocratic friends not because he likes them but because it satisfies his vanity to be with them. He is also aware that the reason he hides behind the mask of the detached philosopher is that personal relationships have always been disagreeable to him. His relationship with Helen consists entirely of sensual satisfactions, without any sense of responsibility or commitment. He also knows that he is a moral coward (as the sad story of his involvement with Joan and Brian reveals) and discovers that he is also a physical coward when he is threatened with a gun by a Mexican in a hotel bar. What frees him in the end is his acute intellect, his honesty, and his highly developed sense of self-awareness, all of which combine to ensure that he eventually recognizes the futility of his attitudes. After meeting Miller, he is able to redirect his life toward greater integrity and wholeness.

The other main characters embody various wrong approaches to living. Mary’s life demonstrates that the merely sensual life is ultimately destructive. At the outset, she is an attractive, seductively charming woman with a gently self-mocking sense of humor, but she degenerates rapidly during the course of the novel. Becoming a slave to her excessive sexual desires, she lives a dissolute life beyond her means and sinks into poverty and morphine addiction.

Mark is in one sense the opposite of Mary. He is...

(The entire section is 722 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Anthony Beavis

Anthony Beavis, a sociologist who, for much of his life, intellectualizes everything and puts his energy into his scholarly work. In 1933, he realizes that he loves Helen Ledwidge, his mistress, whom he has not allowed to get emotionally involved with him. Anthony’s detachment stems partly from guilt he feels at contributing to his friend Brian’s suicide. Brian killed himself after learning that his fiancée, Joan, fell in love with Anthony after Anthony kissed her on a bet. From a lonely, motherless schoolboy, Anthony turns into a pacifist who is trying to live according to love, courage, self-sacrifice, and patience. Anthony has changed after meeting James Miller, a charismatic doctor and anthropologist.

Helen Ledwidge

Helen Ledwidge, a woman with clear gray eyes, ruddy brown curls, and an embittered expression. When she was young, Helen had an abortion after an affair with Gerry Watchett, her mother’s secret lover. Helen later marries Hugh Ledwidge, who wants her to be not a good wife or a sexual partner but a poetic muse. Helen is squeamish about raw meat, sick kittens, and blood and gore. When a dog falls out of an airplane onto her and Anthony, who are naked on a rooftop, she breaks off the affair with him. After leaving Anthony, she falls in love with Ekki Giesebrecht, an idealistic communist who is kidnapped back to Germany by Nazis. Helen says that when he was with her, Ekki made her kind, truthful, and happy. At the end of the novel, Helen and Anthony are friends.

Mary Amberley

Mary Amberley, Helen’s mother. She has spent her life as a pleasure-seeker. She began a two-year affair with Anthony when he was twenty years old and she was twenty-nine. Mary dared Anthony to kiss Joan, Brian’s fiancée, and she threatened not to talk to him again if he failed to do it. Her favorite lover was Gerry Watchett, who mismanaged her money for his gain. With her money gone, living in Paris, she ends up drinking and taking morphine, telling lies, and living in squalor.

James Miller

James Miller, a...

(The entire section is 870 words.)