The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Fleur Talbot is a character whose very identity parallels the challenge she undertakes. She is an autobiographer, relating her life story in this novel, but she is also a novelist, one whose business is not the facts of life but the myths of fiction. This mixture of life and fiction is the challenge she faces when she agrees to edit the autobiographical works of others while she continues to create the fictional worlds in her novels. Whether it is life imitating art or art imitating life, Fleur’s identities and professions become indistinguishable, and Fleur delights in that lack of neatness. She reveals that delight in a sentence she repeats at the beginning and end of this novel, which is also Fleur’s autobiography: “How wonderful it feels to be an artist and a woman in the twentieth century.”

Because it is Fleur’s story, told by and about her, Loitering with Intent is really Fleur’s creation of herself, an act she accomplishes by telling of her many creative processes: writing novels, stealing manuscripts, exposing criminal behavior, and finally, writing her own self-portrait. Each of these processes is a game in itself, one which Fleur relates with apparent delight; beneath each of these games, however, lie serious questions which the narrator carefully interjects. She asks, for example, the classic question, “What is truth?” Her answer suggests the complexity of fact-finding and truth-telling for the novelist: “When people...

(The entire section is 466 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Fleur Talbot

Fleur Talbot, a novelist about twenty-five years old. She has an appetite for living and observing. She thinks how good it is to be a woman and an artist in the middle of the twentieth century. She completes her first novel, Warrender Chase, while working as a secretary to Sir Quentin Oliver, transcribing, improving, and even adding to the memoirs of his society, the Autobiographical Association. Her inventions sometimes turn out to be true, and the members like them. Although she recognizes that her job might influence her novel, she is astonished when Sir Quentin quotes from it. She suspects that he has her proofs and then finds her manuscript missing. She then steals the autobiographies (Sir Quentin has them stolen back) and later finds her manuscript. Pages torn from Sir Quentin’s diary enable her to expose him. Just before her novel is published (to great success), however, a policeman almost charges her with “loitering with intent,” a phrase that describes her activity as an artist. She becomes a successful novelist and lives in Paris.

Sir Quentin Oliver

Sir Quentin Oliver, a baronet of about sixty who is the founder and leader of the Autobiographical Association. He attended Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, and is of slight build, with white hair. He habitually holds his hands with the fingertips touching. His snobbery, based on title and rank alone, is boundless, as is his appetite for power over the association, the members of which trust him with their secrets. When he realizes that Fleur is suspicious, he takes over the rewriting, has Dottie steal Fleur’s manuscript, and obtains Fleur’s page proofs. He embellishes the autobiographies with her material. His diary shows that he has driven Lady Bernice to suicide. Fleur uncovers his scheme, which...

(The entire section is 752 words.)