Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 365
The characters in Party Going are primarily two-dimensional. They represent the London Mayfair set that Henry Green seems to know so well, gay and clever socialites whose lives seem primarily to consist of petty intrigues and romantic rivalries. Max is the epitome of the wealthy young playboy bachelor pursued by...
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- Critical Essays
The characters in Party Going are primarily two-dimensional. They represent the London Mayfair set that Henry Green seems to know so well, gay and clever socialites whose lives seem primarily to consist of petty intrigues and romantic rivalries. Max is the epitome of the wealthy young playboy bachelor pursued by many women. Julia is the foolish, featherheaded young virgin who flirts and then rebuffs any real advances. Amabel is the spoiled and arrogant young beauty who is able to use her sexual charms to manipulate Max at her whim. Angela is the beautiful man-hater who takes pleasure in torturing her lovers. At one point, she invites a male partygoer into her room and claps her hands to simulate a slap, simply to make her young lover, Robin Adams, who is just outside the door, jealous. Miss Fellowes is the most interesting character in the book, but only because she has symbolic connotations as an embodiment of the inevitability of death.
Party Going does not focus on the development of character, as is customary in what might be called the Grand Hotel convention upon which this novel builds. Usually, in such works, when people are thrown together during a lull in their lives, their individual stories and personalities are separately explored. Instead, in Party Going, the characters are revealed as having little or no life apart from their partygoing social life. The personalities of the characters are primarily communicated by dialogue, for Green is convinced that dialogue is the best means by which to give life to fictional characters; the dialogue, however, is so filled with inanities that there is no sense that the characters have any real emotional or intellectual depth. Concerned as they are only with their petty flirtations and jealousies, they act as if they are going to live forever. It is the constant presence of Miss Fellowes, as well as the repeated images of death which seem to cluster about all the characters, that suggests the inevitable truth of the matter. Thus, the novel is not so much populated with the semblance of real people as it is with shallow puppets and symbolic two-dimensional figures—and this is precisely Green’s intention.
Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 792
Max Adey, a wealthy playboy, dark and excessively handsome. With a reputation for alcoholic excess and for considerable romantic charm, Max is the center of attention among the women in the novel. He is also the official host of the traveling party and insists on paying every expense, including the price of three hotel rooms to house his guests while they wait to start their holiday journey to the south of France. Max is particularly attracted both to Julia and to his mistress, Amabel, but he is unable to make up his mind about these two women. Max is clearly helpless before Amabel’s considerable powers of attraction, but he cannot resist duping her to pursue Julia.
Amabel, Max’s mistress, a beautiful celebrity socialite. Amabel tracks Max and his wealthy party to the station hotel, despite Max’s efforts to lose her. When she joins the company, she outshines the other women, who are fascinated and envious of the famous beauty in their midst, and she also succeeds in manipulating the various men, including Max. Amabel is narcissistic and assured of her irresistible appearance. At the end of the novel, she manages to persuade Max to invite her along on the group trip to the south of France.
Alex Alexander, a less attractive and less wealthy member of Max’s party. Alex’s mother died when he was ten years old, and his family has suffered psychological and financial misfortune. Although he wishes to be liked, Alex is too ready to express the selfish feelings of the group, and they often find his frankness vulgar. He is not supposed to care about women, but he is easily manipulated by both Angela and Amabel.
Julia Wray, the niece of a director of the railroad and a member of Max’s party. Julia alternately fears the crowd in the railway station and enjoys feeling superior to it. She is often childish, and she tells Max about her collection of toys at great length. She is also very interested in Max, and although she rejects his direct advances when they are alone together, she is later angered when she finds that Max has spent time alone in the hotel with Amabel.
Claire Hignam, another member of Max’s group, the niece of Miss Fellowes. Claire is alternately devoted to her aunt and resentful of her; she also soaks up Max’s attention while resenting Amabel and Max as the center of the group’s attention. Claire makes a great show of remaining behind the others with her convalescent aunt, but she has no real intention of doing so.
Robert Hignam, Claire’s husband and the object of much abuse. Robert is an agreeable but dull errand boy for his wife. When not in her employ or enduring her assaults on his intelligence, he is usually in the hotel’s lobby bar.
Evelyn Henderson, who is three years younger than Julia and the least wealthy member of the group. Evelyn understands well the importance of money, but she spends much of her time keeping Claire company in caring for Miss Fellowes. Although many of the others express pity for Evelyn, her presence ultimately demonstrates only the shallowness of this sentiment and the selfish nature of those around her.
Angela Crevy, the least worldly member of Max’s party, with extremely white hands and a large amount of luggage. She repeatedly suspects that there is a conspiracy among the others to keep something from her, and she misunderstands entirely the nature of Amabel’s bath with Alex Alexander. She is also contemptuous of people in the street. In her eagerness to become a member of Max’s group, she repeatedly drives away her suitor, Robin Adams.
Robin Adams, Angela’s boyfriend, who is not invited on the trip to France. Robin thinks that the members of Max’s group are revolting, and he desperately wants Angela to acknowledge their engagement. He is disappointed, however, when Angela repeatedly rejects him and eventually sends him away.
Miss Fellowes, Claire’s aunt, fifty-one years old. Entering the fogbound train station where much of the novel is set, Miss Fellowes finds a dead pigeon, which she keeps in a paper bag. She later buys a whiskey in the station hotel bar and subsequently becomes ill. She is then rescued by her niece and her niece’s friends, who take her to a room in the station hotel. Although she provides a moral contrast to the world of her niece in her frequent ruminations on death, Miss Fellowes often merely echoes the trite sentiments of her younger relative and her wealthy friends.