The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

As the first-person narrator, Frances tells her own story; thus the reader sees her, and everyone else, through her selective but very perceptive viewpoint. Because she presents herself so unfavorably—shy, sharp-tongued, socially awkward, offended by bad manners—the reader may be inclined to think that she is also prim, too polite, and colorless. Yet she is much more than that, as she herself reveals: She is thoughtful, wryly good-humored, courageous, and kind to the lost or lonely, people with lives that are of no interest at all to the convivial and gregarious Frasers and their friends.

Frances yearns to be noticed, to discover new possibilities, to make changes in her life. She is, however, the daughter of two people who did not like changes; after their death, she continues to live in their apartment with its tasteless, outmoded furniture and decor, her only companion a devoted, ancient housekeeper who also resists change, still thinking of Frances as a child and feeding her the tiny meals that she used to prepare for Frances’ invalid mother, whom she adored.

When Frances becomes involved with the Frasers, new possibilities do open up, but Frances does not really change, although she feels different. She takes more care with her appearance and feels attractive. She tries hard to accommodate herself to the Frasers, to amuse and please them, but she continues to be the quiet, private observer, not the rowdy celebrant that the others...

(The entire section is 489 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Frances Hinton

Frances Hinton, an aspiring writer who works in the reference library of a medical research institute. Healthy, practical, quiet, and calm, Frances is also modestly attractive. An observer rather than a participant in life, Frances is weighed down spiritually by responsibilities taken on too early in life, at the time of her mother’s illness and eventual death. An orphan now, Frances feels herself claustrophobically locked into an existence heading nowhere. In search of excitement, she is drawn into the glittering life of the Frasers. Before long, her dreams of life with them, and of life with James Anstey, are dashed when Alix Fraser senses an independent streak in her and tires of her. Frances takes up her writing again, attempting to turn her pain into something amusing.

Nick Fraser

Nick Fraser, a doctor doing research at the institute. Tall, handsome, athletic, well-connected, and socially charming, Nick has everything going for him. His visits to the reference library enchant the employees, and he receives special treatment because the women are all half in love with him. Although he is working on the subject of depression, Nick is half of a lively, thoughtless couple that takes up Frances for a while, then drops her.

Alix Fraser

Alix Fraser, Nick Fraser’s wife. Tall and fair, not beautiful but with an aura of power that commands attention, and possessing a wonderful mouth and an even better laugh, Alix is Nick’s perfect complement. As careless and brilliant as he is, Alix is somewhat more cruel and blatant. For diversion, she takes Frances into her circle, calling her Fanny (a name Frances...

(The entire section is 695 words.)