The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Depending upon one’s view, there may be dozens of characters in Lookout Cartridge or only one, that represented by the voice of Cartwright. As the purposes behind events are ambiguous, so are the motives usually associated with the activities and personalities of traditionally defined characters. Why, for example, should so many people be interested in a cheaply made, seemingly disorganized film shot by two completely unknown amateur filmmakers? Characters in Lookout Cartridge bear names (sometimes, confusingly, two characters share the same name) and engage in activities but never emerge from the matrix of plot and cross-purpose to become Forsterian “rounded characters.” Cartwright himself often questions his own status as an actor in an unseen plot or a discrete self in an overcomplicated world; at times, he compares his being to a crystal in an LED display, a stray signal in a noisy system of communication, or a “lookout cartridge”—a device which merely records, rather than sorts out, whatever information is fed into it.

It is precisely what he decides his function to be within a novel which is an assemblage of scattered facts and actions that defines Cartwright’s “character” and his position as protagonist. Like the familiar hero of an Alfred Hitchcock film, the innocent “who knows too much,” dragged into a mystery not of his making and beyond his powers of comprehension, Cartwright is often simply the victim of...

(The entire section is 486 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Cartwright, an American investor, living in London, who has become involved in the production of an avant-garde film about life in contemporary England. A moderately successful businessman with a wife and two teenage children, he sees the film as a means of adding a new dimension to his life. When most of the film is stolen before filming is complete, Cartwright becomes obsessed with discovering who stole it and why. Following a variety of clues, some of which lead to dead ends, he travels back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean. His quest leads him into a labyrinth of characters and their motivations: filmmakers, international businessmen, smugglers, gangsters, and terrorists. Everyone seems somehow related to a conspiracy that may be exposed by something in the film. Cartwright jeopardizes not only his own life but also the lives of family and friends in his pursuit of the answers.

Virginia (Jenny) Cartwright

Virginia (Jenny) Cartwright, his seventeen-year-old daughter. Jenny is an intelligent, attractive, and intrepid girl who learns of the conspiracy through her relationship with a young American man. On her own, she seeks out clues and travels internationally in an attempt to protect her father. Even the mistaken idea that she has been murdered does not stop him.

Dagger DiGorro

Dagger DiGorro, Cartwright’s friend and collaborator on the film. DiGorro was the technician...

(The entire section is 518 words.)