The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The human characters in Mrs. Caliban verge on being conventional or predictable figures in a typical American soap opera. Rachel Ingalls,‘however, is a skilled craftsman whose delicate and precise strokes bring even to the minor characters an undeniable authenticity. Fred is a singularly weak and immature man: inarticulate, self-indulgent, irresponsible, insensitive. Having failed to meet the challenges of marriage, Fred is content to ignore Dorothy’s pain and to be mothered by her: She cleans and cooks for him and sees that he has his umbrella or that his tie is straight. Since he cannot respond adequately to the needs of a mature woman, it is altogether fitting that his lover is a sixteen-year-old child, and it is perfectly in character for Fred to disclaim any real responsibility for his affair: “I didn’t even like her, but I was bored. She was the one who started it all.” This despicable little man also predictably reacts to his wife’s renewed vitality and attractiveness by deciding “all in the space of an evening and without consulting her, to put their marriage back where it had been several years ago”—without giving up his tawdry affair with Sandra.

Estelle is a liberated woman: liberated from the repressive strictures of a patriarchal society but unable to replace the conventional values she has rejected with any values of substance. Rather, she has opted for promiscuity and self-indulgence. She is a “natural speeder” who is finally overbearing and insensitive. Estelle confuses a frivolous compulsion to own an elaborate white costume gown with romance and the “nature of desire.” The reader’s compassion for her grief at the loss of her two children and her...

(The entire section is 699 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Dorothy Caliban

Dorothy Caliban, a housewife nearing middle age and living in Southern California. Two of Dorothy’s major characteristics are her alienation and her loneliness in a loveless marriage. Dorothy’s outlook on life is clearly conditioned by the bleakness of her marriage. Dorothy’s husband, Fred, who is haunted by the death of their only child, causes her to settle for a life of marriage in name only. The nominal aspect of the marriage is shown in Dorothy’s behavior. The author emphasizes that Dorothy is absorbed in acting out the routine of marriage—for example, shopping and cooking—but receives none of its intimacy. An essential aspect of the plot is Dorothy’s consciousness of the emptiness of her life, which prepares the reader for her reaction to Larry. Because of the shallowness and lack of sexual intimacy in her marriage, Dorothy is quickly attracted to Larry, a huge amphibian creature. Dorothy’s attraction to Larry is a catalyst for the plot, in the sense that in her devotion to him she hides him, has an affair with him, and wants to protect him from those who would capture and punish him for killing two people at the institute from which he escaped. Furthermore, the change in Dorothy’s own life during her relationship with Larry is central, because she becomes a much more romantic, fulfilled person than she has been in her sterile marriage. Her consequent openness to adventure with Larry is a main aspect of the plot.


Larry, also known as Aquarius the Monsterman, a...

(The entire section is 637 words.)