Fully realized characters are seldom called for in allegory: in fact, they often impede its progress, so it is not surprising that many of the figures that appear in Lanark, often identified only by first names, are types rather than individuals. What reality they have is gained in part by a clever use of literary resonance, explained in the Index of Plagiarisms in the epilogue, and in part by Gray’s structural gamesmanship, since characters who appear only in essence in the Lanark story take on the dimensions of the vivid personalities whose roles correspond to theirs in the Thaw section.
This kind of “structural characterization” is, for the most part, effective. It enables the author to underline his themes without seeming too obvious and to enliven what might otherwise be a rather dry excursion into didactic form by forcing the reader to make connections between conventional perspectives and their underlying role in psychophilosophical discourse. Several characters can be condensed into one and seen in terms of their function in Thaw’s psychic life; their individuality is referential rather than specific, but they retain lingering traces of their original personalities. Rima, for example, is Marjory Laidlaw, Thaw’s teasing nemesis, but she is also all the other women in Thaw’s life, from his mother to the prostitute, who attract and then abandon him. Sludden, the archetypal taker and destroyer, is the under side of all the...
(The entire section is 405 words.)