The number of characters who are clearly definable is small, since several change roles so often that one never knows when or if they ever stand unmasked. The girl impersonating Lily Montgomery is explained as a schizophrenic patient of psychiatrist Conchis. Nicholas soon learns that she is really an actress named Julie Holmes, accompanied by her twin sister June, whose name later changes to Rose. Then Julie Holmes becomes a Dr. Vanessa Maxwell in a foreboding trial scene in which Nicholas is bound, gagged, and humiliated. He is later forced to watch an explicit love scene between his beloved Julie and the young black man who has played several parts in the masque. Nicholas realizes with a shock that he himself is involuntarily assuming the role of the venomous Iago. Whoever she is, Nicholas is mercifully cured of his infatuation and begins to yearn for the good, earthy benison of his lost love, Alison Kelly.
Alison receives limited characterization, as a person somewhat lost and out of step with conventional society. She seems unrefined, almost crude at times, but unusually perceptive and warmhearted. She is quite conscious of Nicholas’ shortcomings but offers him a love that he has not really deserved.
Nicholas himself reveals his character most openly, partly because he is telling the experience after the fact. He describes himself at school in England as a “wartime aesthete and cynic with expensive habits and affected manners.” He greatly admires D. H. Lawrence. “I got a third-class degree and a first-class illusion: that I was a poet. But nothing could have been less poetic than my seeing-through-all boredom with life in general and with making a living in particular.”...
(The entire section is 700 words.)