It is difficult to discover which character is most central to the action of The Return of the Soldier, for each has a pivotal role to play. Yet without Chris Baldry, the plot would collapse, for he binds together the unlikely rivals for his love, Kitty and Margaret.
Chris is, at first, unreal, for the reader hears of him only through others who have known him, principally the narrator, Jenny, and wife Kitty. From them, we see him as a war casualty, a walking emblem of war’s cruelty and capriciousness. Wars not only maim and kill the physical body but also affect the mind and spirit.
Set against the blasphemous horror of war are Margaret’s and Kitty’s recollections of an earlier, more peaceful time. Chris figures as a man of feeling and intellect, capable of passion and love, a gentle man who delights in making others happy and fulfilled. At the same time, he is a dreamer conjuring the ideal world.
At the center of his ideal world is Margaret Grey, a charming, loving adolescent girl later to be transformed into a seamed woman of middle years. As a girl, she fell in love with Chris’s ability to dream and hope and from him learned to do the same. Though her dreams have come to nothing and despite the fact that she is constrained by circumstance to live a rather drab life, she delights in what life affords her. Her understanding of people is at once intuitive and accurate, and she finds that the quiet life allows her to concentrate on...
(The entire section is 607 words.)