The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

A Glass of Blessings is, along with Excellent Women (1952), the only first person narrative among the novels Barbara Pym published during her lifetime. Like the earlier book, it focuses on the one character rather than on a group or community, though to be sure a wide range of characters is seen and judged through Wilmet’s eyes.

If A Glass of Blessings departs from Pym’s prevailing narrative convention, so Wilmet Forsyth is unusual among Pym heroines. First, she is a married woman, though marriage for Wilmet is a comfortable confinement, an arrangement that permits her worst qualities, idleness and self-indulgence, to flourish. Wilmet is similarly handicapped by two other positive gifts of fortune, beauty and taste, that Pym seldom grants in abundance to her heroines. In Pym’s novels, such women as Wilmet, Leonora Eyre in The Sweet Dove Died (1978), and Prudence Bates of Jane and Prudence (1953) consider their beauty sufficient in and of itself to gain for them the romantic regard of men. Miss Bates makes an incidental appearance in A Glass of Blessings as the passively attractive “other woman” whom Rodney takes to dinner, if not to bed. Wilmet, in much the same manner, considers the admiration of men nothing less than her due. The novel’s sequence of events teaches her two important points: that men can love less lovely women (or, in Piers’s case, other men) and that feminine friendship and the solid affinities of marriage are more important to her life than is the romance she wants to receive from Piers, Harry,...

(The entire section is 648 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Wilmet Forsyth

Wilmet Forsyth, a beautiful and perceptive but idle woman whose only occupation is wife to her civil servant husband. At the age of thirty-three, she is tall, dark, elegant, and obsessed with trivia and social proprieties. Secretly reproving herself for her aimless and self-indulgent existence, she longs for romance and excitement, represented for her by the dashing and mysterious Piers Longridge, and for purpose, which she seeks in St. Luke’s parish society. As the story progresses, Wilmet gradually involves herself in church activities and a variety of lives. Her roles as confidant and adviser to Mary Beamish, as benefactor to Wilfred Bason, and as friend to Piers Longridge allow her to develop an understanding of human complexities. By the end of the novel, she is able to look beyond surface appearances in others and appreciate the blessings in her own life.

Rodney Forsyth

Rodney Forsyth, a middle-aged, successful civil servant, Wilmet’s husband. Viewed through his wife’s eyes, he is a good husband and a reliable, conscientious man but is without imagination or spontaneity. Late in the story, he demonstrates, through a near-romance with a professional colleague, that he is also dissatisfied with his overly comfortable existence. Wilmet comes to perceive his ability for impulsive action, his wry sense of humor, and his own insecurities.

Sibyl Forsyth

Sibyl Forsyth, Rodney’s intelligent and strong-minded mother. Nearly seventy years old and of independent means, she maintains an active life in social welfare and intellectual activities that contrasts sharply with Wilmet’s idleness. Her confidence, humor, and clear sense of self provide...

(The entire section is 712 words.)