Over Sea, Under Stone Characters
by Susan Cooper

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Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Over Sea, Under Stone tells the story of one of the skirmishes between good (Light) and evil (Dark) that culminates in the cosmic battle recorded in the last novel of the series, Silver on the Tree. All of the main characters in the novel fight on one of these two sides, although their allegiances are not always immediately clear. Some of the characters working for the Dark initially seem to be on the side of the Light. As they are drawn into the conflict Jane, Barney, and Simon elect to fight for the Light. Because they must decide which side to support and then must prove their commitment through action, the Drew children are the major characters in the book. They grow the most because of the choices they must make. Great-Uncle Merry, the most powerful representative of the forces of Light, and Mr. Hastings, the most powerful representative of the forces of Dark, are important as well.

"You can't find a treasure map and just say Oh, how nice, and put it back again."
Jane is intuitive, sensitive, perceptive, and at times almost seems to have a psychic connection with other characters. She sees how the standing rocks match the map, she "feels her warning instincts mutter," then realizes the owl wails at the beach are really the sounds of their enemies. When she wishes for Great-Uncle Merry to come to the cave, he arrives at the door almost immediately. But she is not as perceptive a judge of character as Barney. Neither she nor Simon believes Barney when he claims Mrs. Palk is one of the enemy.

Barney, the youngest of the children, knows the most about King Arthur. This knowledge and his natural bravery make him the logical character to find the map, debate good and evil with Mr. Hastings, and find the grail. He refuses to give the grail to Mr. Hastings, even when threatened with death. Barney is the most important character in the novel because he is most involved in the struggle.

Simon is the oldest, so he feels obligated to protect his younger brother and sister. As a result, he is more cautious than Barney. He keeps the map from Miss Wither and Bill Hoover, and he wants to retreat when he and Barney are in the cave. Only Barney's persistence allows them to find the grail.

The children are guided in their fight against the Dark by Great-Uncle Merry, Merriman Lyon, or, as Barney realizes at the end of the novel, the magician Merlin. Great-Uncle Merry can guide and protect the children in their fight, but he must leave important decisions up to them. As a result, although he is a powerful and mysterious presence in the novel, he is one-dimensional.

Mr. Hastings is...

(The entire section is 708 words.)