Miranda Hume, the iron-willed matriarch of the Hume family. She bullies and intimidates her husband and children, all of whom she appears to dislike, except for her son Rosebery, on whom she dotes in a possessive and needy way. She poses as a standard of rectitude and domestic order but is in fact driven by passions of which she appears largely unconscious and over which she has little control. The fact that her eldest son is illegitimate is something she hides beneath a façade of rigid Victorian propriety. Because she has deluded herself into thinking that she possesses a godlike omniscience, when she is confronted with her husband’s secret erotic life, her subsequent tantrum precipitates her own death. Although, like a spoiled child, she is used to getting her own way, her autocratic rule is, in reality, barely holding together a divided and discontented family. When she dies, she is virtually unmourned.
Rosebery Hume, the eldest son, who is devoted to his mother, Miranda. Their special relationship creates a rift with the other members of the family, who are resentful of his status. Being her favorite, however, undermines his ability to marry and have children of his own. He is, in fact, a victim of Miranda’s intense and devouring emotional needs. His identity is completely determined by his relationship with his mother, and he is more comfortable in a domestic world than in the traditionally masculine world of work outside the home. It is only on Miranda’s death that he feels liberated enough to seek any other partner. His period of grief at the passing of his mother is suspiciously short. The past has too strong a hold on him, and his future is as an unmarried man who is happiest looking after the younger children. Fortunately for his younger siblings, he has none of his mother’s authoritarian personality traits and...
(The entire section is 780 words.)