The Luminaries Characters
by Eleanor Catton

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The Luminaries Characters

The main characters in The Luminaries are Walter Moody, Crosbie Wells, Francis Carver, Lydia Greenway (Wells) Carver, and Anna Wetherell.

  • Walter Moody, the novel’s protagonist, is a newcomer to New Zealand. He serves as mediator and implementer of justice.
  • Crosbie Wells is a hermit whose murder sets the novel’s plot in motion.
  • Francis Carver is a former convict whose deceitful actions influence many events in the novel.
  • Lydia Greenway (Wells) Carver is Crosbie Wells’s widow and Francis Carver’s lover.
  • Anna Wetherell is a prostitute who is found unconscious at the beginning of the novel.

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Walter Moody

Despite being the protagonist of The Luminaries, Walter Moody is portrayed as an outsider. His exodus from Britain to New Zealand in search of fortune lends him an element of foreignness, which is further emphasized when he stumbles upon the privy council of men at the Crown Hotel. At the novel’s outset, Moody is presented as a figure who views himself from an exterior perspective, with little time for introspection or reflection. However, throughout The Luminaries, he grows in maturity and experience, by recognizing the importance of an individual’s life experience in forming their conception of truth. In revealing his own family’s betrayal to the twelve men, Walter forms a human connection that forges the way for him to become the facilitator and mediator of justice in the novel.

Later, when Moody uncovers Crosbie Wells’s letters to his brother Lauderback, he also discovers the hidden life of the hermit and feels a “bitter kinship” with the murdered man. Wells—who is down-to-earth and an alcoholic—is, on the surface, a complete contrast to the refined and educated Moody. However, when Moody discovers that both have been betrayed by their brothers and have traveled in search of them, he realizes that they are connected not by their background, but by their shared experiences.

As Moody’s story draws to a close, the lessons he has learned are solidified by his new understanding of truth. When he and his friend Paddy Ryan set about telling each other stories, Moody has to decide between telling “the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” His experiences in Hokitika mean that he now appreciates that the dichotomies between fact and fiction, between authenticity and embellishment, are not straightforward. Truth is instead a collective experience, and much like storytelling, it is shaped by the prejudices and feelings of the teller.

Crosbie Wells

Crosbie Wells is a hermit whose murder is at the heart of the plot of The Luminaries. Wells had been a successful gold prospector who amassed a fortune of four thousand pounds, but it was stolen by his wife, Lydia, and her lover, Francis Carver, who used it to blackmail Alistair Lauderback. Wells seeks revenge on Carver for stealing his fortune, his wife, and his identity by carving a letter C into his face. Despite Wells’s fundamental decency, this act shows that he is capable of violence when it comes to enacting justice.

Wells’s half-brother is the politician Lauderback, whom Wells tries to connect with through a series of letters, implying his desire to find his identity in family origin. Wells is also the father of Anna’s unborn child. He demonstrates his perceptive nature when warning Anna of Lydia’s conniving behavior, and his grief when Anna miscarries their child demonstrates his integrity and sensitivity.

Francis Carver

Francis Carver is a former convict and the prime suspect in the murder of Crosbie Wells. Carver’s identity is unstable, and he shifts between a variety of guises: namely, those of Francis Carver, Crosbie Wells, Alistair Lauderback, and Francis Wells, with each alias being advantageous to his purpose. Carver is connected to the death of Crosbie Wells and the execution of Sook’s father, whom he framed for trafficking opium. Carver is associated with the planet Mars, named for the god of war, and this is shown in his vicious and...

(The entire section is 1,265 words.)