The Lady Who Liked Clean Restrooms Characters
by J. P. Donleavy

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The Lady Who Liked Clean Restrooms Characters

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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The other characters in The Lady Who Liked Clean Restrooms are plausible enough for Donleavy's purposes, but only Jocelyn, the Lady of the tide, is a fully developed person. Her husband is a reduced version of the ginger men whose self-centered antics have captivated readers in other novels. He is devastatingly dismissed as an "homme nul" by a Frenchman. Her children appear briefly before their "permanently last visit" as ungrateful wretches. The husband of one of her "friends" attempts to seduce her in a hilarious scene where Jocelyn reveals the true nature of loveless lust as a pecuniary transaction, exposing him as another deteriorating ginger man. The people she turns to for financial or psychological assistance are hucksters fluent in various forms of the language of persuasion and deception. Only the genuinely gentlemanly representative of an old law firm behaves with any kind of honesty or decorum, and even he is essentially a caricature. The Lady's character must carry the narrative, and Donleavy accomplishes this by combining the attributes of someone who is convincing in her enthusiastic responses to artistic accomplishment; startling in her facility with a rugged, take-no-prisoners vernacular that cuts through layers of smirking pomposity; touching in her sensitivity to the pain inflicted by a brutal world and bracing in the authenticity of her refined manners and graceful demeanor when that is required.

As a child, Jocelyn has an insight that seems to structure her life. Looking through the social register, it occurs to her that "some people with more money than anybody else could have the world their own way." Through the course of the narrative, Jocelyn discovers that this is not necessarily so, and perhaps more significantly, that having one's "own way" is not an entirely satisfactory way to live, especially if one, like Jocelyn, embodies with grace and elegance the traits which ought to qualify a person for the social register but which generally are subsidiary considerations to such crass but forceful determinants as money, status, and social power. The poignancy that results from the incongruity between what Jocelyn seems to deserve and what she ends up with is an important element in the sympathetic response that Donleavy evokes from the reader, but by employing his caustic wit to almost every situation, Donleavy avoids the sentimentality that could easily wreck a story about a person who for much of the narrative is, "silly sad and sinking."