Lewis Eliot, a junior faculty member at the unidentified college—similar to Cambridge University in England—where the story takes place. He comes from a rather poor family and has managed to advance in society. The story of the election of a master at the college is told from his point of view. He throws his support to Jago and remains loyal to him to the end of the affair.
Paul Jago, a senior faculty member and candidate for the position of master. He is ambitious, mercurial, and very quick to seek the position of master. His affability and humane spirit win him the early support of many, but some crucial flaws in his character eventually erode his standing. He has not published any work of substantial scholarship. He is temperamental and given to excessive bursts of emotion. His marriage has not been ideal, and some doubt that his wife has the ability or social skills necessary to support him successfully in the position of master. Eventually, these matters cause strategic support to shift away from Jago, and he loses the election. He takes the loss very hard but still is able to be reconciled to the man who defeats him.
Ronald Nightingale, a scientist on the faculty, somewhat of a misfit. He showed promise early but never lived up to the expectations everyone had of him. He has not made any great contributions to the sciences and will not. As a result, he is bitter and spiteful. He first supports Jago but soon changes his choice to Crawford. After becoming a supporter of...
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