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...
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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 fragile woman who is negatively influenced by Burlap. She fears men due to her sexual assault at the hands of her uncle some years earlier.
Sidney Quarles is a literary man who is all talk and no action. He has plans to write a grand literary text on the subject of democracy but never gets this done, instead spending his time in affairs and in disregarding his wife.
A long-suffering woman, Rachel is not happy with her marriage but tolerates her husband’s behavior, quietly resolving the scandal with the young woman who arrives at their country home.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 735
Walter Bidlake, a literary critic in London. An essentially weak and confused man, he is unhappy in his extramarital relationship with Marjorie Carling and seeks some kind of better realization in an affair with Lucy Tantamount. The author regards Walter as an example of the emptiness of the intellectual life unsupported by sound instinctual expression.
Marjorie Carling, Walter’s unhappy mistress. She has left Carling because of his perversion and yet behaves with Walter, to all effects and purposes, like a nagging wife rather than a cheering companion. Fearful of her pregnancy, she drives Walter from her. Marjorie has difficulty reconciling the needs of her body and of her soul.
Philip Quarles, a writer and diarist. He is the prime example in the novel of a man who understands everything and feels nothing. He has an encyclopedic mind and seldom fails to develop a topic in a startling way.
Mrs. Bidlake, the mother of Walter and Elinor Quarles. She is a gentle and aesthetic elderly woman who is unable to aid any of her children with their personal problems.
John Bidlake, Walter’s father. Bidlake, once a successful artist and amorist, is horrified by the decline of his artistic powers and by the onset of disease. He represents the shortcomings of irresponsible sensuality.
Hilda Tantamount, a successful London hostess. Once John Bidlake’s mistress and now his friend, she lives for amusement and malice.
Lord Edward Tantamount
Lord Edward Tantamount, Hilda’s husband. Lord Edward is a great biologist and a failure in every personal relationship he undertakes. He represents the limitations of the scientific approach to complex human experience.
Lucy Tantamount, the promiscuous daughter of Lord Edward. Malicious and without any kind of conscience, she amuses herself with Walter Bidlake and any other acceptable male who crosses her path.
Frank Illidge, Lord Edward’s laboratory assistant. He is a brilliant lower-class person who, out of hatred and socialistic conviction, allows himself to become involved in the murder of Everard Webley.
Everard Webley, a British Fascist and head of the Brotherhood of British Freemen. He is a man of tremendous physical magnetism whose thirst for power and his contempt for the masses make him a likely target for Illidge’s hatred. He is also a former friend of Elinor Quarles.
Burlap, the editor of the Literary World. His chief critical stock in trade is religious mysticism; actually, he is a feeble sensualist who has damaged the lives of several naïve women. He is finally involved in a perverse relationship with Beatrice Gilray.
Elinor Quarles, Philip’s wife. Her unsatisfactory husband drives her to consider an affair with Everard Webley. She is devastated by the death of her child, Little Philip, from meningitis.
Maurice Spandrell, a nihilist. Spandrell has been shocked into a hatred of life by the remarriage of his mother; there is nothing he can affirm, and he takes delight in destroying the dignity of other people. He pursues violent sensation even to the point of the murder of Everard Webley.
General Knoyle, the stepfather of Spandrell, a pompous military man with no understanding of the world in which he lives.
Mrs. Knoyle, Spandrell’s mother. She is, in part, the innocent cause of her son’s hatred of the world.
Mark Rampion, an artist. Rampion, risen from the lower class, has developed a life and a style of painting that properly express the interplay of all of life’s forces; he is totally unlike Philip Quarles, who understands all of life but cannot live it.
Mary Rampion, Mark’s wife. She is an upper-class woman who has married for love and life. In her cheerful enjoyment of her husband’s vigor, she is an illustration of all that he preaches about the natural, spontaneous life.
Beatrice Gilray, a literary woman. She is the special friend of Burlap, from whom she learns the mingling of high thinking and sensuality.
Sidney Quarles, the father of Philip. He is engaged in a never-to-be-finished work on democracy. He is also involved with a young woman in London.
Rachel Quarles, his wife. Accepting with dignity the shortcomings of her domestic situation, she is a Christian in her devotion and forbearance.