The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Memorable characters, major and minor, are what Mr. Beluncle is about. To a breathtaking degree, the novel is autobiographical, as is obvious to a reader of A Cab at the Door (1968), V. S. Pritchett’s account of his formative years. Ethel and Philip Beluncle are only slightly altered versions of the author’s parents; Henry is clearly recognizable as the young Pritchett; Linda Truslove is a plainer version of Miss H. of the autobiography; and the Purification Church “theology” is the satirist’s version of his real father’s Christian Science. The fictional mother and the real-life one even use the same old saw: “I know the difference between a sixpence and a shilling.” At the close of both books, Henry/Pritchett goes to France. After a few months have passed, a reader of both books cannot separate the Beluncles from the Pritchetts without difficulty.

Mr. Beluncle himself is self-absorbed, self-indulgent, autocratic, optimistic to the point of madness, and the appropriator of other people’s money, yet this flamboyant man inspires love: His wife will defend him against all comers; tears of thwarted love roll down his son George’s cheek; Linda Truslove has loved him for years. In the Purification Church, he finds the cloudy abstractions that gave him scope: “It looks to me,” observes Ethel, “that Divine Love means someone puts up the money.”

Ethel is the perfect foil to her husband: “The more Beluncle dressed, the less she dressed: their marriage had always been a duel.... The more he sat, the more she stood. The more he was the lord, the more she, vindictively, was the slave.” When she “wished to be outrageous she...

(The entire section is 690 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Philip Beluncle

Philip Beluncle, a businessman in partnership with Linda Truslove. He is chubby, flamboyant, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, autocratic, optimistic to the point of madness, and an appropriator of other people’s money. His petty tyranny and business impracticality are shown early in the novel in his relationship with his partner in their small furniture manufacturing firm. Being informed by her that the firm is on the verge of bankruptcy does not deter him from planning to purchase a large, expensive house, “Marbella”—acquiring houses is an obsession with him. His petty tyranny and house mania also figure early in the novel in scenes with his family: He bullies his wife, Ethel (who usually pays him back), and his sons, Henry, George, and Leslie (who usually cannot). His economic follies and his obsession with houses have meant many disruptive moves for the family, usually only a jump ahead of his creditors. Beluncle has gone through, or “invested,” large amounts of other people’s money in his business and personal extravagancies. Despite all this, he somehow inspires love: Linda Truslove was in love with him for years, his wife defends him against all comers, and tears of thwarted love roll down George’s cheek. Beluncle is a member of the Church of the Last Purification; its “Divine Mind” tells him what he wants to hear and gives him room to “breathe.”

Linda Truslove

Linda Truslove, Beluncle’s business partner. She is a sensible and rather plain, but not unattractive, widow who has struggled against Beluncle’s extravagancies over the years of their partnership. She had been in love with him but now is thoroughly disillusioned. Added to her frustrations are those arising from the care of her...

(The entire section is 730 words.)