Last Updated on July 20, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 397
T.S. Eliot's The Family Reunion (first produced in 1939) tells the story of a matriarch who seeks to procure a caregiver for her estate and reconcile with her family before her death and on the occasion of her birthday party. The estate is named Wishwood and is located in the North of England. The family gathers together during a late and cold spring.
Amy, Lady Monchensey
Amy, Lady Monchensey, is the dowager of Wishwood. She yearns to see her sons, only one of whom (Harry) arrives for her birthday. She expresses contempt for her son Harry's late wife, and would love to see him marry a more unassuming and proper woman with whom he may serve as caretaker of Wishwood after her death. Amy is joined in her home by her sisters are Ivy, Violet, and Agatha, and her brothers, Gerald and Charles. Mary, the daughter of her deceased husband, is also present.
Violet and Ivy
Violet and Ivy are similarly conservative and proper. They suggest that the new generation is becoming decadent, and they value propriety. They agree that they would not move south because of the people being "vulgar" compared to the population of England. Charles, too, is quite conservative. His brother, Gerald (a former subaltern in the British Army) is more progressive. He misses living abroad while in the service and hates the cold weather.
Agatha, the oldest sibling, is occasionally antagonistic to Amy, for the reason (discovered at the end of the play) that Agatha took Amy's husband. Amy accuses Agatha of convincing her son, Harry, to leave, though he in fact chooses to leave of her own volition.
Harry, the oldest son, lost his wife (whom his mother never liked) at sea and reveals to his family at the birthday party that he believes he is responsible for her death. He is haunted by the Eumenides (creatures from Greek tragedy who haunt those who have committed murder). He has been absent for eight years and has no interest in taking over Wishwood, as his existence is haunted and unsettled.
Mary, the distant relation of Amy, is an age-mate of Harry's. Though the two used to play together as children in the trees around Wishwood, they do not becoming romantically involved (despite the fact that Harry's mother thinks she would be a suitable daughter-in-law). Mary is nearly thirty years of age, unmarried, and socially self-effacing.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 557
Amy, Dowager Lady Monchensey, an old member of the English aristocracy. She is determined to preserve the family estate, Wishwood, as it has always been and use it as a means to keep the family together. Like most people who are used to giving orders, she believes that her desires eventually will be fulfilled, in this case her wish that her oldest son will return to take over the estate and marry her ward. As she dies, she begins to see that she has been living in an unreal world; some of the things happening around her then begin to make sense.
Harry, Lord Monchensey
Harry, Lord Monchensey, Amy’s son. Having returned home for the first time in eight years, he finds his family still trying to deny any change in the world. While he was gone, he had murdered his wife, and he is currently searching for some satisfactory way of life. In the few hours that he spends at Wishwood, he finds that the ghosts that have been following him are not his at all, but his father’s, and that he is really pursuing them. He soon leaves to seek out the deeper reality that he has just glimpsed.
Agatha, Amy’s sister. Many years prior to the action of the play, Agatha fell in love with her sister’s husband but convinced him that he must not murder Amy because of her pregnancy. At the time of the play, Agatha is making her first visit to Wishwood in thirty years. She is the only one of the older members of the family who has any sense of reality or who is aware of the changes that have taken place around them. She helps Harry to glimpse reality and advises him to leave immediately.
Downing, Harry’s servant and chauffeur. Although he has seen the Eumenides, he realizes they have nothing to do with him and is therefore able to treat the subject with equanimity. He has complete faith in his master’s ability to cope with the situation.
Mary, Amy’s niece and ward. Although she is aware of Lady Monchensey’s plans for her marriage to Harry, she knows that this will not do. Upon Harry’s return, she finally finds the courage to leave the estate and enlists the aid of Agatha in carrying out her plans.
Violet, Amy’s other two sisters. They understand nothing of what is going on around them, not even that they are old and no longer a part of a moving world. Their chief interest in life is Amy’s will.
Colonel the Honorable Gerald Piper
Colonel the Honorable Gerald Piper and
the Honorable Charles Piper
the Honorable Charles Piper, brothers of Amy’s deceased husband. Much like Amy’s sisters, they are living in the past, but they retain their confidence that they can meet the challenges of a changing world.
Dr. Warburton, an old friend of the family who is called in to try to diagnose Harry’s trouble.
The Eumenides (ew-MEHN-ih-deez), the evil spirits that Harry believes are following him. They are seen by him and Downing, as well as by Agatha and Mary.
Denman, a parlor maid.
Sergeant Winchell, a policeman in the local village.
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