Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 465
Blanche Vernon, the central character. Divorced from Hubert “Bertie” Vernon, she is childless and in her mid-forties. Blanche, who is plain in appearance and innocent of the world’s competitive ways, questions why Bertie married her. Beneath an elegant, bookish, witty, and slightly eccentric exterior lies a lonely woman...
(The entire section contains 465 words.)
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- Critical Essays
Blanche Vernon, the central character. Divorced from Hubert “Bertie” Vernon, she is childless and in her mid-forties. Blanche, who is plain in appearance and innocent of the world’s competitive ways, questions why Bertie married her. Beneath an elegant, bookish, witty, and slightly eccentric exterior lies a lonely woman with some romantic yearnings. To please her husband, she shaped herself into what she thought he wanted, but he left her for a younger woman. She bears the divorce bravely, devises activities, develops theories about kinds of people, and categorizes herself as among the losers. When she sees the child Elinor at the hospital, she becomes obsessed. Occasionally happy, she is often secretly paralyzed by bleak loneliness.
Hubert (Bertie) Vernon
Hubert (Bertie) Vernon, the wealthy head of a real-estate firm, a graduate of Cambridge University. He is about Blanche’s age. Mistaking her petulance for passion, he fell in love with Amanda and was divorced from Blanche. He now lives with Amanda, invigorated by his new life. Hardworking, sociable, curious, unimaginative, and somewhat insensitive, yet solid and caring, he thinks in anecdotes. Blanche’s literate and witty talk makes him uncomfortable, but so does sharing a villa in Greece with Amanda.
Amanda, who is often called Mousie. She is about twenty-five years old, beautiful, spoiled, and shallow. She holds a degree in computer sciences, and is Bertie’s secretary. She manipulates Bertie to capture his sympathy before and during a memorable dinner party at the Vernons’. She is the ostensible cause of the Vernons’ divorce. Bertie lives with her and goes with her on vacation.
Sally Beamish, the stepmother of Elinor and wife of Paul. She is about twenty-five years old, tall, slim, and red headed. Although she exudes animal health, she is listless, as if hibernating. She becomes animated only when talking about wild days in the past and about good times to come. Pleasure is her due, and she shamelessly cajoles money out of Blanche and others.
Elinor (Nellie) Beamish
Elinor (Nellie) Beamish, the daughter of Paul and stepdaughter of Sally, about three years old. She is the object of Blanche’s affections. She hears and understands everything, but she does not speak. She lives with Sally but spends time with her paternal grandmother. When she returns from a long visit, she seems older and is no longer interested in Blanche. She eventually speaks.
Patrick Fox, a man in his mid-forties who attended Cambridge with Bertie. He is a civil servant and had been in love with Blanche. He is a bachelor who is diffident with women, yet he pathetically falls for Sally.
Phyllis Duff, the wife of Blanche’s dentist. The middle-aged woman, who fits a stereotype of the model wife, lives near Blanche.