The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Scott’s most fascinating creation is the character of Ronald Merrick. Perhaps the truest test of any other character’s personality is his or her reaction to Merrick’s odd blend of heroism and hostility, decency and depravity. From the beginning of The Jewel in the Crown, the narrator gives the reader mixed signals; Merrick is demonstrably hard-working and thought to be handsome, if not quite pukka. Initially, the reader analyzes Merrick’s dislike of Hari Kumar as jealousy over the affections of Daphne Manners. Merrick’s sensitivity to class nuances allows the reader to sympathize with his feelings of unworthiness as a suitor for the impeccably connected Daphne, but Merrick’s growing hatred for the public school-educated “gentleman in a brown skin” illustrates a darker side of his personality.

In The Day of the Scorpion, Merrick’s character receives further development as the fate of Hari is revealed. Lady Manners opens a private hearing in which Hari tells his version of his wrongful arrest and imprisonment. Hari’s testimony plumbs the depths of Merrick’s hostility, latent homosexuality, and duplicity. Hari explains Merrick’s idea of Anglo-Indian relations as “the calm purity of contempt” on his side which should be answered by fear on the Indian side. As Merrick’s inner self moves into uglier patterns of thought and behavior, the handsome outer shell changes as well to a burnt, twisted mask that is an...

(The entire section is 576 words.)