The Middle Age of Mrs. Eliot Characters

Angus Wilson

The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Because the two major characters of the novel are Meg Eliot and her brother, Angus Wilson largely limits his psychological revelations to them, revealing the other characters through dialogue and through the eyes of Meg and David. Although their personalities are very different—Meg effervescent and theatrical, David scholarly and private—they have both responded to a childhood with which they have not yet come to terms. Deserted by their father, herded from town to town by their mother as her little genteel business ventures failed, one after another, conscious of their poverty, both harbor a resentment of their past and a desperate need for security in the future. After her husband’s death, Meg thinks, “Bill was lost to her; and she was lost to loneliness, back where she had started, lying alone in some country hotel room....”

David, on the other hand, has been accustomed to loneliness, which his beloved partner Gordon Paget had insisted was the human condition. While David had for many years been forbidden sexual intimacy with his lover Gordon because of Gordon’s Christian beliefs and therefore had come to accept a hopeless, partial relationship, Meg had assumed that the seeming intimacy of her ideal marriage was the reality. Only after Bill’s death does she realize that Bill was unhappy in his corporate practice, which he undertook in order to make more money for her, and desperately worried about their financial instability and his own...

(The entire section is 576 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Meg Eliot

Meg Eliot, a wealthy forty-three-year-old society matron. Striking in appearance, with large brown eyes, laugh lines, and thick, graying yellow hair, Meg occupies her time with her collection of porcelain and with charitable works in which her wealth and confidence allow her dominance. Insecure as a child, she values the luxury her husband provides and trusts all financial matters to him. As the novel opens, she is about to accompany him on a trip around the world. After his death on that trip, she is left relatively poor and learns that, without wealth and a husband, her world is circumscribed and her dominance over people rejected. Analyzing her marriage, she realizes that there, too, she had been manipulative. After training to be a secretary, she suffers a physical and emotional breakdown and is sheltered by her long-estranged brother David at his nursery, Andredaswood, in Sussex. Returning to health and a more authentic sense of confidence, she reenters the world, taking a series of jobs that will allow her to understand life as it is, not as, in her wealth and security, she had once fantasized it to be.

Bill Eliot

Bill Eliot, a successful barrister, fifty-five years old. With his drink-flushed, coarse, and sensual face and his overweight body, Bill is a conventionally masculine man. For Meg’s sake, he has sacrificed an interesting career in criminal law for a more profitable corporate practice that affords them the style of life Meg craves. They have spent all he has made. Worried about his health and Meg’s future, Bill has become a compulsive gambler. At the Srem Panh airport in Badai, he intervenes to prevent the assassination of a Badai minister whom he had admired at the airport and is himself killed, leaving his financial affairs chaotic.

David Parker

David Parker, Meg’s estranged older brother. David, a pacifist during World War II, is casual in appearance, with thick, prematurely gray hair and...

(The entire section is 818 words.)