The Last Man Characters
The main characters in The Last Man are Lionel Verney, Lord Raymond, Adrian, Perdita, and Lady Idris.
- Lionel Verney is the novel’s narrator. The son of a disgraced nobleman, he befriends the earl of Windsor and ultimately becomes the sole survivor of a global plague.
- Adrian is the earl of Windsor and Lionel’s closest friend. He eventually serves as lord protector.
- Lord Raymond is a friend of Lionel and Adrian’s and a freedom fighter in the Greek wars.
- Perdita is Lionel’s sister and Lord Raymond’s wife.
- Lady Idris is Adrian’s sister and Lionel’s wife.
Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Lionel is the novel’s central character. He is of noble stock, but his upbringing was tainted by harsh conditions and poverty. His father was a disgraced nobleman without money, and as a result, Lionel grew up with rude manners and violent ways. However, his friend Adrian’s influence refines Lionel’s rough manners, bringing him back to his proper station as a noble. These elements of the character’s history give him a fish-out-of-water status that makes him an ideal narrator for a speculative story set far in the future.
Lionel witnesses the great changes and plague which bring about the apocalypse; his loved ones and world all die out until he is the last man on earth, wracked with loneliness and grief as he wanders through Europe. Considering that other characters in the novel are based on Mary Shelley’s real-life loved ones and fellow writers, many see Lionel as a stand-in for Mary Shelley herself, who lost so many people over the course of the 1810s and 1820s—such her beloved husband, Percy Shelley; her friend Lord Byron; and several of her own children.
Adrian is the earl of Windsor and the former heir to the now-toppled throne of England. He is a gentle fellow, patient and intelligent. Based on Percy Shelley, Adrian is presented as an idealized figure, a lover of philosophy and humankind. He cares little for power and seems a saintly, chaste figure, too good for flesh and blood.
Adrian’s foil is Lord Raymond (based on the Shelleys’ close associate Lord Byron), an ambitious, hot-blooded nobleman. He is a military man fighting a campaign in Greece. He initially has designs on the throne but is tempered by love of Lionel’s sister, Perdita, whom he eventually marries. However, even Perdita is secondary to his love of adventure. He goes to Greece again, only to die in a trap laid by the Turkish forces there.
Perdita is Lionel’s sister. Having grown up in the same conditions as her brother, she becomes withdrawn and mistrustful, though Adrian’s influence and her blooming romance with Raymond make her into a more refined person. However, her love for Raymond borders on obsession, and when he eventually dies, she loses the will to live without him. She drowns herself when Lionel and Idris force her to leave Raymond’s graveside.
Lady Idris is Adrian’s sister. She becomes Lionel’s wife, much to the disapproval of her mother, the countess of Windsor, who wants a higher-born match for her daughter and is willing to use physical force to make that plan a reality. Regardless of social opposition, Lionel and Idris are a devoted couple, facing the wars and disasters together before Idris finally falls ill and dies toward the end of the novel. Despite Idris’s estrangement from her mother, her body is laid to rest at Windsor Castle, and her mother reconciles with Lionel after Idris’s interment.