The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The nature of the characters in Nothing is determined by two factors: their social situation and Green’s self-conscious decision to delineate the characters primarily through dialogue. Given the facts that the characters are basically shallow or dull and that readers are not allowed into their minds, since all that can be known of them is from what they say, the characters seem to be nothing more than the somewhat brittle and boring surfaces that they project socially. A flat, two-dimensional sense of character is the result. No one is either very good or very bad; no one is torn by emotional or philosophical doubts; no one is heroic or villainous; in short, no one is very interesting. Rather, they are all recognizable types.

For example, Jane, the central character in what is really an ensemble performance of six characters, is beautiful and witty but spoiled and unscrupulous. Her manipulations to get John back and to break up her daughter’s marriage to John’s son constitute the main plot interest. John is a well-bred and well-dressed middle-aged man, but he is a snob. He is also easily manipulated by Jane. Liz, John’s mistress, is an embodiment of sexual indifference, apparently content to be passed from man to man. Dick, the last man to whom she is passed, is an apoplectic and pompous fool. They drift together, after being dropped by Jane and John, for lack of anything better to do.

The younger generation fares no better....

(The entire section is 482 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

John Pomfret

John Pomfret, a forty-five-year-old widower. He is a member of the older generation who made much of parties, socializing, and sex. He had a good war record, but his main interests presently seem to be his affair with Liz Jennings and his longtime friendship with Jane Weatherby. His affair with Jane in the past almost broke up his marriage to Julia. He is fond of his daughter Mary, but she is not at the center of his life. John usually laughs at things, maintaining an ironic stance.

Jane Weatherby

Jane Weatherby, a widow with a twenty-year-old son, Philip, and a six-year-old daughter, Penelope. Jane, who has fat, white hands and plump, firm thighs, has been having an affair with Dick Abbot. On the surface, she seems flighty and helpless, but she manipulates the other characters in her indirect, “feminine” way. She prevents Philip’s marriage to Mary Pomfret so that she can marry John, Mary’s father, and not have her marriage look ridiculous to society. Jane makes much of her concern for her daughter Penelope, creating her image as a devoted mother, but she deprecates Philip to her friends, saying that he is not quite normal. Jane also seems tight with money, unwilling to help out the newly engaged couple, Philip and Mary.

Mary Pomfret

Mary Pomfret, who is eighteen years old and striking in appearance. She is described as a bluestocking, taken up with her civil service job. She and Philip think that life is hopeless because of the national economy. Mary tells Philip that they...

(The entire section is 643 words.)