Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Saul Henchman

Saul Henchman, a society photographer. Wounded in World War II, Henchman is short and frail, and he requires crutches. He and his assistant, Barberina Rookwood, join a cruise around Great Britain on the liner Alecto. Among the small circle of passengers, he is the subject of gossip and speculation, chiefly concerning his relations with the beautiful Barberina. Valentine Beals, one of the circle, tries to associate Henchman with the Arthurian legend of the Fisher King. The Fisher King was a king wounded in battle and unable to do anything other than fish; spied by the knight Percival, he was invited to join the knight in his castle. At a banquet, a spear and a cup were brought to the table by a page and a maiden. If Percival had asked what these objects meant, the Fisher King would have been healed, but he did not, showing indifference to their appearance. Henchman proves to be like the Fisher King, in that the indifference to his feelings by others causes him to lose Barberina.

Barberina Rookwood

Barberina Rookwood, Henchman’s assistant, in her early twenties. Barberina gave up a promising ballet career to care for Henchman, whom she believes to be a genius. Her beauty attracts many admirers on the Alecto, the most ardent of whom is Gary Lamont, a press tycoon. Less imposing is the frail Robin Jilson. Although Lamont is very pressing, Rookwood has little respect for him and instead...

(The entire section is 550 words.)

The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The characters so meticulously created, Henchman and Barberina, partially exist in the minds of their creators, the Bealses and the Middlecotes. The reader is well aware that material given is selected primarily by Valentine Beals. A writer of fiction, Beals might manipulate the narrative to create certain artistic effects. When the narrative involves direct reporting and quotation from Henchman or Barberina, however, the reader pays close attention. Henchman is everything gossip reports him to be—disfigured, difficult, peremptory, ironic. At times, he is silent, nearly spectral; then he may suddenly wax loquacious about his experiences. Both Louise Beals and Fay Middlecote find Henchman extraordinarily attractive for all of his disabilities; his impotence somehow renders him more appealing rather than the reverse. Fay Middlecote attempts fairly direct flirtation, while Louise Beals, once enamored of her homosexual doctor—another man who could not return her affections—contents herself with admiration from afar. Henchman wears the gloss of celebrity with an ill will that distinguishes him from others; perhaps this impatience with image makes his character so ironic as it is his profession to create images—for others. Professionally, nearly all the male characters work with the manipulation of images Lamont in his newspaper, Middlecote in his advertising campaigns, and Beals in his novels.

Barberina is nearly as complex as Henchman. Marked as a dancer from childhood, protected and cosseted by her grandmother, given a taste of early success, Barberina’s desertion at seventeen to share Henchman’s life can only be termed a coup de foudre. She tends him lovingly; she is as much nurse as assistant....

(The entire section is 702 words.)