Mr. Stone and the Knights Companion Characters

V. S. Naipaul

The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Because Mr. Stone and the Knights Companion is concerned with Richard Stone’s self-discovery, Naipaul reveals events and characters as Stone sees them. A sensitive and thoughtful man, Stone is generally the observer, not the observed, in office groups or in the periodic parties at the Tomlinsons. Yet in his imagination flourish the most grotesque fancies, all of which involve startling the very people who think him so colorless.

It is her ability to dramatize him which draws Stone to the lively Margaret. After the initial adjustments of their marriage, Margaret’s capacity to mold herself to his nature and to draw the elderly maid, Miss Millington, into a similar role, so that both women seem to exist only when “the Master” is present, further gratifies Stone. With his new confidence, Stone pursues success, and with success comes greater confidence. On the “evening of pure delight,” Stone seems to have realized his earlier fantasies, such as that in which he flies, to the wonderment of all who see him.

As he observes Margaret, who in some ways represents generic Woman, Stone alternates between delight and distaste. The world first intrudes upon his illusions when he sees her false teeth in the bathroom on their wedding night. Soon he discovers that she has discarded the wit which won him, that it is only a “party” mask. On reflection, however, he admits that continual archness might have been exhausting, that the quieter Margaret is more restful. When he comes home, Stone enjoys the master-servant illusion, yet he regrets his lost privacy. When Margaret is away, Stone misses her. When...

(The entire section is 667 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Richard Stone

Richard Stone, an employee of a minor corporation called Excal who, at the age of sixty-two, after thirty years with the company, is about to retire. Locked within the strict routines of his dull life, this timid, proper man resembles the stereotype of the “little man” of English literature. To overcome his loneliness and fear of retirement, he marries a widow, Margaret Springer. More significant, however, he defends himself from the painful idea of retirement and death by composing a plan called the “Knights Companion,” which calls for selected employees (dubbed “Knights”) to visit retired employees of Excal to buoy up their spirits. In the creative act of composing the “Knights Companion,” Stone discovers a pure sense of hope and purpose, but at the end of the novel, having learned of the death of his friend Tony Tomlinson, he adopts a cynical philosophy that declares all action and creation as a betrayal of feeling and truth. He comes to the conclusion, finally, that all that matters is people’s frailty and corruptibility.

Margaret Springer Stone

Margaret Springer Stone, a middle-aged widow who, shortly after meeting Stone at the annual dinner party of his friends, Tony and Grace Tomlinson, marries him and encourages his plans to draw up a retirement program for the employees of Excal. She succeeds, for a time, in helping him to overcome his dread of the void, but finally her...

(The entire section is 480 words.)