The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

At the beginning of Jake’s Thing, Jake complains to his physician about what he believes is a simple sexual dysfunction. He even hints to the doctor that some sort of medication might set him straight. By the end of the novel, however, after a series of psychological therapies, Jake’s problem is compounded tenfold. In the concluding chapter, when Jake is finally offered a physical remedy in the form of testosterone supplements, he is so utterly averse to women that he responds with a decisive “No thanks.”

Jake Richardson belongs to an older generation of men who have conservative notions of sexual decency. Rosenberg may be correct in his assessment of Jake’s puritanical “guilt and shame,” but Jake resents having to apologize for attitudes which he considers natural and proper. Although Jake assures Rosenberg that he does not mind “exposing his genitals in public” for the purpose of therapy, Rosenberg’s obsession with the topic of such exposure annoys him. Jake believes that there are physical and psychological matters which ought to remain private. It seems to Jake that Rosenberg’s insistent theme of public pubic display is an analogue for the modern mania for psychoanalytic exposure. Jake particularly resents the moral hegemony of the mental health profession, and he despises its cant: “If there’s one word that sums up everything that’s gone wrong since the War, it’s Workshop. After Youth, that is.” Despite his...

(The entire section is 428 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Jake Richardson

Jake Richardson, a reader in early Mediterranean history and a fellow of Comyns College, Oxford. He is fifty-nine years old, thickset, and round-faced; he wears glasses and has a history of being attractive to women. In the past, he had a reputation for being inclined to take advantage of his attractiveness. He is very intelligent, somewhat conservative in his ways, and very quick to react, if usually only in his mind, to the silliness of modern life. He has been ill and seemingly as a result has lost his desire for sex, causing some problems with his wife. He reluctantly takes medical advice, first from his family doctor, then from a psychologist specializing in sexual difficulties, and eventually from a sexual therapist working in group encounters. Too clever, too skeptical, and too impatient to fall in with the chic jargon of contemporary sexual theories, Jake, possessed of a scathing capacity to know fools when he sees them, finally tells off everyone. In the process, his wife leaves him, realizing, as he does, that his problem is not medical or even psychological, but simply a matter of no longer caring to try to please women for the pleasures of sex, which have no hold over him anymore.

Brenda Richardson

Brenda Richardson, Jake’s third wife, only forty-seven years old but running somewhat to fat, which they both suspect may have something to do with Jake’s disinterest in sex. Still a handsome woman, with lovely green eyes, Brenda is willing to help Jake. She goes on a diet, takes instruction with Jake, and attends therapy with him. Sex is, however, not their only problem, and Brenda, who is a...

(The entire section is 681 words.)