The Fortunes of Richard Mahony

(Great Characters in Literature)

Characters Discussed

Australia Felix, 1917

Richard Mahony

Richard Mahony, one of many Englishmen lured to Australia to seek a fortune in the gold fields. He is never truly happy or at ease in his adopted country. Trained as a doctor, he abandons his profession to make a living as a shopkeeper in a rough mining community. His success is only marginal until after his marriage. At his wife’s urging, he returns to medical practice. He has never been skilled at dealing with people, being introspective, sensitive, critical, and at times brutally honest. With the help of his wife’s charm, however, he gradually attracts a practice of well-to-do patients. Unfortunately, even this achievement leaves him unsatisfied; he is always looking for something and someplace better, moving his family from location to location.

Mary Turnham

Mary Turnham, who becomes Richard’s wife. When he marries her, she is very young and working as a family helper at Beamish’s Inn. She admires Richard greatly, although it is her personality that enables him to become a success. She likes most people and is inclined to think well of them. She remains loyal to Richard, at first from admiration and respect and later as a defense against recognizing his weaknesses. She eventually realizes that some of his desires are foolish, even destructive.

Purdy Smith

Purdy Smith, Mahony’s boyhood friend from Dublin. In Australia, they are close at first because of these memories. Purdy sides with the workers and the rebels, however, eventually finding his former friend too distant and aristocratic. Richard, on the other hand, dismisses Purdy as coarse and vulgar. The friendship between the two is further harmed when Purdy falls in love with Mary.

John Turnham

John Turnham, Mary’s older brother, the first of the family to go to Australia. He quickly became successful. After...

(The entire section is 809 words.)