The Luck of Ginger Coffey Characters

Brian Moore

The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The Luck of Ginger Coffey has an intriguing figure as its central character. Ginger is an amiable, well-meaning, but deeply flawed man, unable to relinquish his own dreams of grandeur even when his family’s financial welfare is at stake. Moore has drawn him in many regards as a quintessential Irishman, full of charm and blarney, fond of an occasional whiskey, and given to wearing a jaunty Tyrolean hat with a small feather in its brim. Yet Ginger lacks the fatalism of many of his countrymen, and it is his optimism that has led him to emigrate to Canada, where he hopes to leave his undistinguished past behind him and start afresh.

Ginger has come to Montreal as the representative for three Irish firms, all of which soon dispense with his service upon learning that the gulf between his claims of expertise and his actual abilities is very wide indeed. It is a setback which is symptomatic of Ginger’s character flaws in general, for well-intentioned though he may be, he is at heart irresponsible and self-deluding—traits which have devastating repercussions in his personal life.

Moore reveals much of Ginger’s personality through his character’s thoughts, and the portrait that emerges is one of a proud, emotional man whose ability to rationalize, rather than understand, his setbacks allows him little room for personal growth. Throughout the book, Ginger repeatedly hides his failures from Veronica and Paulie, seemingly unaware that their respect for him will plummet when they discover his deception. His dishonesty results from his own need to believe in himself as a man of great talent and potential, and his false pride leads him to refuse a promotion from the one character who shares his belief—Mr. Brott of the diaper service—because he believes that a job as Brott’s assistant would be no better than his former positions in Ireland. So...

(The entire section is 767 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

James Francis “Ginger” Coffey

James Francis “Ginger” Coffey, an unemployed Irish immigrant to Canada. A large, red-haired, thirty-nine-year-old with a full mustache, he is a well-meaning but unrealistically optimistic ne’er-do-well who affects the jaunty appearance of a Dublin squire, exuding charm and blarney. Essentially good at heart but without personal insight, he is irresponsible and thoughtless, habitually evading the truth, rationalizing away his shortcomings, and blaming others for his failures. Having left Ireland and a series of disappointing jobs, he settles in Montreal, expecting to find fame and fortune despite his general lack of qualifications. After a few months, his initial scheme fails, and he finds himself without money or job prospects and in the middle of a marital crisis, the result of fifteen years of inflated dreams, empty promises, and chronic prevarication. Caught in his own web of exaggerations, half-truths, and lies, he is forced to swallow his pride, confront the reality of his existence, and reevaluate his relationships with his wife and daughter. Circumstances and his conscious attempts to be more realistic, responsible, and self-sacrificing result in a clearer view of himself and his possibilities, as well as a reconciliation with his estranged wife.

Veronica (Vera) Coffey

Veronica (Vera) Coffey, Ginger’s wife. A tall, dark-haired, attractive thirty-five-year-old, she is angry at Ginger and tired of being let down and taken for granted. Flattered and tempted by Gerry’s offer of love and a new life, she leaves Ginger, finds a job, changes her hairstyle, and assumes a new attitude of independence. Concerned for her daughter Paulie, she maintains contact with Ginger. When Gerry refuses to help Ginger...

(The entire section is 733 words.)