The Passage Characters (Vance Palmer)

Vance Palmer

The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Lew is the central character of the novel. Initially perceived as brooding, he gradually reveals strength and resourcefulness upon which people are able to depend. His personality derives from and reflects the Passage itself: placid and vulnerable at times, yet determined to survive, endure, and sustain others.

Hughie, on the other hand, is more of a gambler, willing to work but also hooked on the idea of glamorous projects and fast money. He is quick to rely on the resources of others, slow to acknowledge his debts to his family. One hopes by the end of the novel that mother’s onetime favorite has become aware of his own limitations (as have Lew and Clem) and will act more responsibly as a result.

Clem has left the Passage feeling it insufficient for her dreams. She discovers that her estimation was wrong: Although she does not regret her time away—in fact, defending it as necessary—she is pleased to return to the locale that inspired her originally. Her journey is not much different from the walkabouts of Bob and Lew.

Palmer sacrifices depth in some of his characters to heighten the debate between those who would exploit the Passage and those who wish to preserve it. Some characters exist to represent points of view: Osborne and Craigie, for example. The characterization of Lena seems to be a conscious (and visible) effort to avoid this problem: Palmer rounds her out by showing that her sympathies do not lie wholly in one camp. Still, her movement from the Osborne camp, as realized in her marriage to Lew, seems improbable and false. Her emotional life seems contrived. Best among the minor characters are those who are native to the Passage, whom Palmer draws with vibrancy and uniqueness found in good local-color fiction.

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Lew Callaway

Lew Callaway, a slow-tempered, laconic fisherman on the Queensland coast of Australia. The eldest son, he carries the responsibilities of providing for the family of six after his father’s death. He is slow-minded, powerfully built, patient, and methodical; he is also resourceful, indomitable, and dependable. He is sensitive to nature, appreciates literature and music, and responds to expressions of kindness. Captivated by the physical beauty and apparent sophistication of Lena, he nevertheless soon realizes his error in marrying her rather than the more practical Clem McNair. His life is spent helping others, but he expects no help from them: He is what Australians call a “battler,” one who struggles. His big, slow body is suntanned, and he has brown eyes that, “dark and smouldering, gave intensity to his face.” He is a foil to his brother Hughie.

Hughie Callaway

Hughie Callaway, Lew’s younger brother and their mother’s favorite. He is fair-skinned and freckled, with puckered eyes and a wide mouth. He is bright but shallow, energetic and outgoing, and a fortunate entrepreneur until taken advantage of by a dishonest partner. He is rescued financially by his stalwart, frugal brother, whose ways he had disparaged. He is seduced by his fast-track, fair-weather friends and their glamorous lifestyle, though he has ceaseless initiative and unusual inventiveness. Although voluble, he is not astute, and he is severely shaken by reverses in fortune.

Anna Callaway

Anna Callaway, the widow of Bob Callaway and a lifelong resident of the Passage. She unreasonably expects her son Lew to shoulder the responsibility for the family and openly favors Hughie, who receives every consideration and attention. Only Hughie’s business failure brings her to an appreciation of Lew’s work and worth. She is manipulative and not especially maternal. She is a big, dark woman with “prominent eyes, heavy hips,...

(The entire section is 814 words.)