The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

“People’s lives are just gossip fodder,” Nora remarks to Javo early in the novel, after Javo has suspected her of being unfaithful with Francis, the director of the film on drug addiction. Monkey Grip thrives on “gossip fodder” and often reads like an expose of communal freaks whose lives are devoted to free love and drug involvement. Nora and her circle are involved in filmmaking, rock music, and the women’s movement. Javo is an actor who is seen working in cinema and on a Brecht play while the novel is in progress. His picture has appeared in Cinema Papers, the major trade publication for Australian filmmakers.

The characters of Monkey Grip are almost entirely ego-involved, self-destructive, and hurtful. Half of them are serious drug addicts, stumbling through the narrative with dilated pupils. Javo, for example, steals from Nora and Rita, who are kind enough to provide him with bed and board, love and care. The rest of the characters are equally aimless, as is the narrative itself. One primary interest of this novel, therefore, would seem to be sociological, outlining the behavior of the rock-punk counterculture, latterday hippies and freaks, erstwhile radicals who have lost the idealism and sense of purpose of their predecessors of the 1960’s.

The novel is written in the first person, and Nora, the narrator, takes much for granted. She is a feeling, emotional character who does not understand her own motivation. She is addicted to love, or lust, whichever is convenient in...

(The entire section is 630 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Nora (Nor) Lewis

Nora (Nor) Lewis, the thirty-three-year-old narrator. A writer for a feminist newspaper in Melbourne, Australia, she also sometimes works as a film extra. Previously married for six years to Jack, she now tries to be independent, though she likes men, the latest being Javo. She snorts cocaine and smokes marijuana, but she is not a junkie. After Javo’s return from Cambodia, they separate. Distressed, Nora gets a crewcut with a tail, and she resigns herself to his absence.


Gracie, Nora’s daughter, who celebrates her sixth birthday. She does not like school, runs away from it, and refuses to talk about it.


Javo, also called Javes and Javaroo, a tall, twenty-three-year-old actor and heroin addict. He has piercing blue eyes, and his face shows the ravages of drugs: He looks to be forty years old. He drifts into and out of Nora’s bed as he attempts in vain to break his drug habit or hide it from her. He journeys to Cambodia with Martin; they are arrested and jailed for carrying drugs through Bangkok. After Julian secures their release, he returns to Melbourne, where he acts in a Bertolt Brecht play and keeps apart from Nora. In the end, he lives with Claire.


Martin, Nora’s lover when she meets Javo. He travels to Cambodia with Javo, where they are jailed together.


Julian, one of Martin’s brothers. A former junkie who deals in smack, he pulls his long hair back to pass customs. He raises bail for Martin and Javo in Bangkok.


Joss, Martin’s mystical elder brother, whom Nora meets when he returns from America. He has messy bleached-out hair and large scars on his arms and feet.


Lou, Martin’s green-eyed friend who wears a green...

(The entire section is 769 words.)