Last Updated on July 22, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 719
Walter Bidlake is a literary man based in London. He does not have a strong character or resolve, as evidenced by his backing out of his demands for more pay from Burlap. However, he does have a conscience that pricks him constantly in his attraction to Lucy in spite of Marjorie.
Walter’s mother is a gentle and kind-hearted woman, but she is helpless to save her son from his mistakes.
Marjorie Carling is an emotional and unstable young woman who struggles to understand what she needs for fulfillment. She seems to depend on Walter, but at the same time, she pushes him away and alienates him by her constant criticisms and demands. She is rendered more cheerful, however, when the pair move away to the country.
John Bidlake, Walter’s father, was once a successful artist who indulged a great deal in sensual pleasures. His physical and creative decline horrifies him, and he ends up as a rather pathetic and unsympathetic figure.
Philip Quarles is a highly intellectual man, skilled in the arts of conversation, who nonetheless feels very little emotion.
Elinor Quarles is deeply dissatisfied with her husband and is tempted to enter into an extramarital affair as a result. She takes the death of her child, Phil, very hard.
A highly skilled socialite, Hilda is also a cruel woman who enjoys spiteful gossip. Though she is Edward’s wife, she has, in the past, enjoyed a relationship with John Bidlake.
Edward is a keen scientist who seeks to apply the scientific method to all his human relationships—an effort that fails miserably. For Huxley, science is of little use when dealing with the complexities of human interactions.
As spiteful as her mother, Lucy is very sexually active, spending time with a variety of men, including John Bidlake and the unnamed Parisian artist. She gets bored very easily and seems to use sex as a means of finding emotional fulfillment.
Frank is a highly talented individual who has, despite his working-class status, been chosen by Edward to be his laboratory assistant. His socialistic beliefs are so strong that they have overcome his conscience, and he has become bitter and hateful of capitalists like Everard Webley.
A pompous and violent fascist, Everard Webley has used his charisma to become leader of the “British Freemen,” a prominent fascist organization.
Burlap is an arrogant, miserly hypocrite who edits a magazine called The Literary World. This magazine hasn’t done very well financially, but Burlap contents himself with the mistaken belief that he has made a positive contribution to literary culture. He is aware of Beatrice Gilray’s psychological fragility, but this doesn’t stop him from pursuing her vigorously.
Spandrell has a very strong emotional connection to his mother. When she remarries, he goes spiraling into a psychotic orgy of sadism and hatred in which he takes pleasure only in violent sensation. The climax of this spiral comes with the murder of Everard Webley.
Mrs. Knoyle is Spandrell’s mother, whose marriage causes her son’s madness.
Gerard Knoyle is swamped in military traditions which have blinded him to the realities of the modern world.
Mark Rampion has risen from a lower-class background thanks to his talent as an artist. He has worked out a style that encompasses all the various impulses and compulsions of human life, and he might therefore be seen as one of the few balanced characters in this work.
Mary is a cheerful, happy-go-lucky character who has rejected the expectations foisted on her by her upper-class status, marrying Mark out of her love for him.
Beatrice Gilray is a...
(The entire section contains 1454 words.)
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