Last Updated on October 10, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 482
Lionel is the novel's central character. He is of noble stock, but his upbringing was tainted by harsh conditions and poverty. His father is 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 gives him a fish-out-of-water status that makes him an ideal narrator for such 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 Europe and Africa. 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 a few 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-grubbing 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...
(The entire section contains 482 words.)
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