The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The delineation of characters is the heart of Margaret Drabble’s achievement as a novelist. Both Simon and Rose are presented in complete detail; their unhappy childhoods, which made them the adults they have become, are described fully through flashbacks. Simon’s discomfort at his wife’s dinner parties is made clear, as is Rose’s preference for quiet evenings in her shabby living room over the social events to which she is still invited. Simon is depicted as an admirably moral man who willingly assists others but also as a man who cannot act on even his best impulses. When Rose tells him of her plan to surrender the children, Simon knows that there must be a way to dissuade her and to convince her to live with him, an arrangement which would make them both happy, but he allows her to leave his office without saying anything. At the end, he makes no objection to Rose’s reconciliation with Christopher, even though he knows that it will not make Rose happy.

Rose is a fascinating character. Her rejection of her family, her determination to marry Christopher and to give away her inheritance, demonstrate strength of character as well as a moral compulsion, acquired through the woman who was her nurse during Rose’s childhood. At the same time, Rose is in many ways weak. She has no compunction about imposing her troubles on Simon, she knows that she had helped precipitate Christopher’s violence by her own shrewishness, and she gives way too readily to her emotions. Despite these weaknesses, she is finally an...

(The entire section is 628 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Simon Camish

Simon Camish, a successful barrister specializing in labor law. He has spent so much of his life repressing his emotions and working to satisfy the demands of others that he feels himself emotionally dry and unable to fulfill the personal side of his life. His marriage to a wealthy woman has lost all romance, and he is henpecked and embarrassed by his wife’s public abuse of him. His children suffer from his distance. Earlier, he had been entirely subservient to his mother’s drive to have him move beyond the poverty in which he spent his childhood. Extremely intelligent and observant of other people, he finds in his friendship with Rose Vassiliou the warmth and emotional excess lacking in his own rigidly controlled and intellectual character and life.

Rose Vassiliou

Rose Vassiliou, a divorced mother of three. Impulsive, deeply emotional, and often irrational in her behavior, she also possesses a keen intelligence, a sharp sense of humor, and a sensual delight in the everyday details of her life. Unlike Simon, who has spent his entire life working to achieve material success, she gives away the money she inherited and deliberately chooses to live on meager resources in a run-down section of London. Her acts of generosity, because they are poorly thought out, often misfire, as do her sudden romantic gestures, such as her marriage to a glamorous but unprincipled and often physically abusive Greek...

(The entire section is 504 words.)