Far North Characters
The main characters in Far North include Makepeace Hatfield, James Hatfield, and Ping.
- Makepeace Hatfield is the novel’s narrator and protagonist, a former constable who has lived a difficult life but ultimately retains her sense of hope.
- James Hatfield is Makepeace’s father, a Quaker, and the leader of the city of Evangeline. Makepeace largely rejects his pacifist beliefs.
- Ping is a woman whom Makepeace befriends and lives with until Ping dies in childbirth. Her memory provides hope and comfort to Makepeace.
Last Updated on April 29, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 957
Makepeace has led a hard life. As a teenager, she is raped by men who want to convince her father of the evil of the world and the need for self-protection. These intruders throw lye on her, which leaves her scarred for life. Finally, she loses her child. When the people of Evangeline decide to create a constabulary school, Makepeace is one of the first people to sign up.
Makepeace largely rejects her father’s worldview. She views her father as an idealist who couldn’t reconcile his beliefs with reality and chose to ignore the latter to maintain his loyalty to the former. Although her father hoped that people will become better with the proper guidance, Makepeace argues that people will turn “rat cunning” with little provocation. When the order and governments of the world fall apart, Makepeace witnesses many atrocities.
However, Makepeace wants to be proven wrong. When she meets Ping, she is ready to commit all of her resources to help Ping raise her child in safety. Later, when she arrives in Horeb, she tries to help them create a better community by finding food for the townspeople. Although Makepeace claims that there are a hundred things worse than solitude, by the end of the novel she admits that the best parts of her life were those she spent with others. Like her father, she hopes for the best in people, though she believes in the power of a full belly rather than a devout mind.
Makepeace likens to the world’s survivors to the story of Noah’s Ark. She collects and hoards books for the future, even though she knows she will not benefit from it. She views the plane as a symbol of hope, particularly because it represents humanity’s potential. Although she lives quite successfully in the wilderness, she prefers to sleep in a bed and asks, “Was there a straight line on earth before we drew one?” When Makepeace gives birth, she is given a companion through whom she can access the future she hopes for.
James Hatfield is Makepeace’s father, and we only learn of him through Makepeace’s recollections and reflections. A Quaker and a leader of men, James played an important role in the settlement of the Siberian wilderness. James is idealistic and optimistic. He interprets the biblical story where Jesus feeds the multitude as a lesson about generosity. By modeling generosity, everyone shared what little they had stored away, and the multitude was fed. However, James’s leadership ultimately fails when Evangeline begins to deal with the remnants of civilization. The people of Evangeline are unable to hold on to their pacifist ideals and they open a constabulary school. Makepeace joins the force, arguing that her father’s ideals blind him to reality.
Ping appears only briefly in Far North, but she has a large impact on Makepeace. When she reveals that she is pregnant, she provides an outlet for Makepeace’s compassion and a companion that can cure her loneliness. Perhaps above all else, she offers hope for the future. Unlike every other character in the novel, Ping seems to genuinely and consistently care for Makepeace. When Ping dies in childbirth, Makepeace decides to commit suicide. Only the revelation that planes still exist gives her hope to continue her life.
Makepeace meets Shamsudin after she has been imprisoned by Boathwaite. Shamsudin is a devout Muslim; he is both highly educated and cultured. He speaks several languages and traveled to numerous cities before civilization fell. Before the end of civilized society, he had been a surgeon specializing in noses. Unlike Makepeace, he sacrificed his freedom so that he could be fed as a slave, and he is ashamed of this.
Makepeace finds Shamsudin charming, and though she does not admit it openly, she cares for him deeply. Shamsudin is the only character in the novel able to discern that Makepeace is a woman. Shamsudin seems to struggle with guilt over betraying Makepeace several times. After all, he does not defend her when the other prisoners discover that she is a woman, and he nearly attacks Makepeace after she becomes a guard. However, Makepeace forgives him repeatedly, and it is revealed that Shamsudin is the father of her child.
Makepeace initially trusts Reverend Boathwaite of Horeb when she surrenders her pistols to him. She is right to trust him because he does return her pistols when she leaves to hunt caribou. However, when Makepeace returns, Boathwaite and the village attack her and sell her into slavery. Boathwaite argues that religious ideals have kept Horeb together, but he also argues that the Bible sanctions hanging Makepeace. Ultimately, Makepeace reflects that Boathwaite is afraid of his flock and that “love and mercy wouldn’t guarantee their obedience.” Instead, he uses the “patterns of the older gods to keep [the people of Horeb] cowed.” Boathwaite shows that the desperation of humanity is capable of corrupting religious ideals.
When the world began to end, Eben Callard argued that Evangeline give up its pacifist ideals. To defeat James Hatfield, he rapes Makepeace. Although he is driven from Evangeline, he founds another community in Alaska. From there, he runs the Base and sacrifices its prisoners to recover lost technology. When Makepeace meets him again at the end of her journey, Callard does not seem like a ruthless villain, but many of his actions lead to atrocities ranging from rape to slavery to subjecting his slaves to poisoning and death in order to retrieve artifacts. He uses the ends to justify the means. He lives without ideals and serves as an antagonist to both Makepeace and her father’s way of life.
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