The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Intensive Care is appropriately titled, for Frame’s characters are victims in need of care for their physical, mental, and emotional wounds. The “recovery units,” however, serve only as way stations between birth and death, and their first consideration is “the smooth running of the whole ward,” not individual patients such as Tom or Leonard. Tom is a “war case,” a man who cannot relinquish his gas mask or his nightmarish dreams; Leonard is also affected by the war, which does not bring him the family about which he dreams. Cissy becomes the Cissy Everest Cancer Doll, and Tom’s daughter Naomi Whyborn, who also suffers from cancer, slowly loses one body part after another. In a sense, she resembles Sandy, the Reconstructed Man, whose doctors gave him everything except “care.” Ironically, not even the apparent winners are safe, as Colin Monk’s case indicates. The man who worships numbers because of their “cleanness” and thereby resembles Colin Torrance, the accountant and who believes that he has been “freed from guilt” finds that his “only hope” is to assume the identity of his twin brother, Sandy, “they myth, the Reconstructed Man.”

Colin Monk’s family has been killed at the end of the novel, which concerns the destruction of families by dreamers who reject reality for illusion. Because he cannot forget the War and cannot acclimate himself to his family, Tom tends the Flame “like a father or a lover,”...

(The entire section is 494 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Tom Livingstone

Tom Livingstone, a retired New Zealand worker in his seventies. An ordinary old man outwardly, Tom faces the end of his life in disappointment as he realizes that he has fulfilled few of his ambitions and has found little happiness through either his job or his family. It is the novel’s intent that the memories, dreams, and fantasies constituting his inner life assume greater importance in character development than do the prosaic events of his daily existence, as he complains of physical ailments, conducts a desultory flirtation with the town’s loose woman, and finally dies alone.

Peggy Warren

Peggy Warren, Tom’s girlfriend after his wife’s death. Approaching middle age, Peggy works as a nurse in a home for the elderly. She is a brassy, bold, and unrefined sort, considered a bit of a tart by the townspeople. Through her relationship with Tom, she searches for security, which eludes her at his death.

Leonard Livingstone

Leonard Livingstone, Tom’s drunken, dirty, and disorderly brother, who shares the main character’s disappointment with what life offers but finds solace in the bottle, not in dreams.

Pearl Torrance

Pearl Torrance, Tom’s daughter, who is enormously obese and overbearing. Her illusions about life faded long ago, leaving her with no sympathy, not even for the battered children whom she serves.


(The entire section is 417 words.)