Lily Gates, a woman in her twenties who takes care of three working-class men. Attractive, blonde, and bright, Lily wants desperately to break out of the boredom of her daily domestic chores. A romantic by nature who lost her mother as a child, she makes the most of her banal life. She falls in love with the romantic Bert Jones and elopes with him to Liverpool, where, unable to find his parents, he abandons her on the street. She returns home full of guilt and takes up her domestic duties as before. She resigns herself to living without love in Birmingham.
Joe Gates, the father of Lily and a worker in the Dupret Foundry, a cynical, manipulative, selfish man in his sixties who tries to avoid work. He lives in the household of Mr. Craigan, his best friend, with his daughter and Mr. Dale. To advance himself at work, he befriends the notorious informer, Mr. Tupe, and spends drunken evenings with him. He threatens to blackmail his closest friend, Mr. Craigan, loses his job, and spends his remaining years in an alcoholic haze.
Mr. Craigan, the head of the household and a master moulder at the foundry. He is in his mid-sixties and is a confirmed bachelor. Although he is not a relative, Lily Gates calls him Grandad. He provides a home for Lily, Joe Gates, and the young Mr. Dale. He uses his control benignly and is terrified of being abandoned by everyone in his old age even though he has put money away for his retirement years. He spends his nonworking hours listening to classical music and rereading the novels of Charles Dickens. Although he is highly respected at work by everyone, he is...
(The entire section is 692 words.)