The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Journey into Fear is essentially an action novel designed to create suspense. Eric Ambler makes Graham an ordinary man to make it easier for the reader to identify with him. Like any other ordinary man, he is unwilling to believe that his situation is as dangerous as it is. At the same time, Ambler makes it clear that Graham is a rather cold person, uncommitted to anyone. He and his wife married only as a matter of convenience, and Graham has got through life by standing aside from people and from events, an observer rather than a participant in the real problems of the world.

It is only when Banat boards the ship in Piraeus that Graham realizes how terrifying his situation is. Yet while Ambler is primarily concerned with events which build Graham’s terror and are designed to carry the reader along, he also makes his characters believable. They are not fully rounded, but neither are they the kind of cutout figures who sometimes populate spy novels. Ambler’s method is not to get inside his characters to show their complexity but to present them to the reader as persons who are not what they seem to be.

Josette, for example, appears first as a sophisticated, though rather weary, woman of the world, and Graham himself realizes that she is playing a number of roles, shifting from one to another like a dancer gliding through the movements of a dance. Later, she seems truly concerned with Graham’s predicament, but she also seems to be...

(The entire section is 567 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Graham, a brilliant engineer in charge of one of the experimental departments of a large British arms-manufacturing firm. A thin, slightly stooping man about forty years old, he is totally absorbed in his work. Quiet, likable, and naïve, he is inclined to believe the best of everyone. He is rather cool in his personal relations, and his marriage of ten years has been without passion on either side, but he is able to make himself amiable to the foreigners he encounters when traveling for his firm. He calls himself “the most harmless man alive” and is thus unwilling to believe his situation is as dangerous as it is. As the novel begins, he has been in Turkey for six weeks, investigating certain aspects of Turkish naval armaments for his firm. In the course of the novel, traveling by steamer to Italy, he becomes the victim of a Gestapo plot to disrupt the British plan to arm Turkish warships. Finally, in northern Italy, he manages to escape death at the hands of the Gestapo.

Josette Gallindo

Josette Gallindo, a dancer. Slender and fair-haired, she is a sophisticated and weary woman of the world. Although she is not particularly gifted as a dancer, her dancing is theatrical and effective as a result of her sensual beauty and grace. At the beginning of the novel, she performs with her Spanish husband in an Istanbul nightclub. She meets Graham, later travels on the ship that takes him to Italy, and offers to...

(The entire section is 595 words.)