The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

There are two types of characterization in Female Friends. Because the novel is in a sense three rather randomly organized case studies, Chloe, Grace, and Marjorie are almost fully revealed to the reader. Only the fact that they, rather than an omniscient author, report and interpret their own lives makes the accounts less than completely reliable. Even then, the friends correct one another’s stories. For example, Marjorie doubts Grace’s tale of being raped by her father; Grace likes to dramatize herself, Marjorie tells Chloe, proceeding to suggest what probably did happen. The other characters in the novel, however, are presented through the vantage point of Chloe, Grace, and Marjorie. Therefore, their motivations are what these women assume them to be or what they themselves state. Certainly, Edwin Songford, Oliver Rudore, and Patrick Bates represent the worst traits which women note in men: They are insensitive, irresponsible, and dishonest; they dominate their women like colossi because they cannot subdue the world and the female seems a ready substitute for it. Unlike the female friends, however, they are one-dimensional.

If Weldon’s men are less fully realized than her women characters, they are at least not all evil. Marjorie’s parents reverse the usual feminist pattern: Her mother, Helen, is self-centered and heartless, while her father, Dick, is as badly treated by his wife as Chloe is by Oliver or Esther Songford by Edwin. There is no implication that Marjorie’s husband, Ben, was inconsiderate, and although Grace’s first husband was a ruthless empire-builder, at the end of the book, she seems to have linked herself to a better person. Because she admits that not all men are evil and that not all women are good, and because she suggests that the victims of both sexes can learn to refuse their roles, the author has created a novel which is both more realistic and more hopeful than it might otherwise have been.

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Chloe Evans Rudore

Chloe Evans Rudore, a wife and mother of five (only two of them her biological children). Nearly forty years old, tall, and very slender, with short dark hair, she grew up in a room behind the Rose and Crown, a bar in the British village of Ulden, where her mother, Gwyneth, cleaned and served customers. There she learned never to stand up for herself, but rather to understand and forgive whenever ills befell her. This upbringing left her somewhat lacking in self-esteem. As the novel begins, she is on her way to London to meet her friends Marjorie and Grace, both of whom are urging her to end her husband’s affair with the Rudores’ French housekeeper. Chloe, however, is almost relieved that her tyrannical husband has found a replacement for her.


Marjorie, a producer at the British Broadcasting Corporation. She is about forty years old and very smart. She has a pear-shaped body, frizzy hair, oily skin, and sad, astonished eyes. She was evacuated from London to Ulden during World War II and essentially was abandoned there by Helen, her socialite mother, to be reared by the Songford family. As a girl, she thought that if she were good, her mother might retrieve her. As an adult, she is still playing the role of the good, capable daughter by shouldering other people’s burdens. Chloe claims that Marjorie “invites trouble, in order to face it.” Despite this knack, Marjorie often seems to...

(The entire section is 600 words.)