The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

James Bohun is an older man deceived by his own moderate intellectual gifts and physical virility (which he retains into dotage). As a Methodist minister, he believes that he should be able to keep his own life in order as well as the lives of others looking (or even not looking) to him for guidance. Perhaps to save God the trouble, or perhaps simply to make sure that things are done properly, James assumes a position of authority within his small world and becomes not only self-righteous but arrogant and pushy as well. Presuming on his own generous estimate of his gifts, his godly calling, and a trace of aristocratic blood somewhere in the family line, James strides through life aware of his triumphs but woefully ignorant of his shortcomings or the strengths of others. His character is consistent throughout the novel and similar to the emperor who paraded so proudly in his “new clothes.”

Jeremy is an attractive character when the reader meets him, employed at a laborer’s job, enjoying the company and admiring the philosophy of simple working men; upon returning home, he is put off by his father’s unbecoming blend of arrogance and insensitivity. As time goes on, however, Jeremy loses this wholesome, commonsense perspective and becomes increasingly like his father. Jeremy is more reflective than James, yet, when it becomes apparent to him that he is duplicating his father’s life, he seems unperturbed and willing to continue. Previously he had...

(The entire section is 437 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Jeremy Bohun

Jeremy Bohun, a laborer in New Zealand who becomes a county clerk, a country schoolmaster, and finally a vicar of the Church of England. The novel focuses on the mental and spiritual development of this sincere, ambitious, well-meaning protagonist from his early twenties to the approach of middle age. He is very much his father’s son, having been infected with his father’s passion for orotund and edifying literature in the grand manner of Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Sir Thomas Browne’s Hydriotaphia. Like his father, he has a strong sexual appetite, which eventually results in his fathering ten children by two different wives. His worldly progress is handicapped by an inferiority complex, also attributable to his father’s influence. He is painfully aware that his father strongly favors his brother and in fact regards him as a pale facsimile of John, who ran away from home at an early age because he could not stand his father’s pedantic, overbearing personality.

James Bohun

James Bohun, Jeremy’s father, a Methodist minister. He is already an elderly man when the novel opens, yet he is physically vigorous and vain about his appearance. He is a nonstop talker and would be regarded by most people as a bore. He is infatuated with his inexhaustible flow of second-rate opinions about the conduct of life. He is compared by the author to Miguel de...

(The entire section is 607 words.)