The Characters

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 661

By the mid-1930’s, Lewis, that lonely old volcano of the Right, as Auden called him, began to enjoy his place as the “Enemy,” the British intellectual of the decade who could and would debunk the flourishing left-wing activities of the rest of his crowd. The Revenge for Love carries out such debunking through its three central characters: Percy, Victor, and Margot. As is often true of Lewis’ fictional creations, each character represents a cluster of political and moral values. Percy is a genuine lower-class figure who has become an organizer for the British Communist Party. Although he remains loyal to the party and to most of its tenets, he has lost any sense of idealism through his association with other party members and through his activity for the party in Spain. His attitudes toward leftists in general, and those of Lewis as well, are spelled out in his speech to Jill Communist, which results in his beating by Jack Cruze. In that speech, he offends the various parlor pinks, university leftists, radical dons, and artistic politicos in an attempt to get Jill to see the sham and fraud that infects the Socialist movement. Rather than showing Jill the light, however, he merely infuriates her with his truth-telling, and she retaliates by having him beaten. Her upper-class snootiness and his lower-class obedience in this scene take on a mockingly unegalitarian and decidedly non-Communistic flavor, which proves Lewis’ point about the depth of the commitment to socialism of such shallow figures as Jill.

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It is to Percy that the story returns for its conclusion, and it is through his character that the fiction resolves itself in a curiously sentimental and human way. It is Percy who, in the last pages of the book, weeps genuine, if mixed, tears for the true heroes of the novel, Victor and Margot: for Victor because he is the one person in the narrative who does not sell out or capitulate to the political claptrap of the left, and for Margot because she is so selflessly devoted to Victor, enveloping him in a love so positive that in her is created the first sympathetic female figure in all of Lewis’ fiction. Both Victor and Margot retain a wonderfully innocent relationship to the world and thereby retain a purity of nature seldom depicted in satire. It is because of this purity that their death genuinely moves Percy to tears, even though he is in the midst of once again taking on his sham personality as an “Injured Party” in the Spanish jail.

Of the other supporting characters in The Revenge for Love, certainly the most noteworthy are Jack Cruze, Jill Communist, and Abershaw. Jack is the hard-drinking, womanizing, obtuse country squire, making him the perfect, if incongruous, figure to unmask the pretensions and shams of the others in the novel. Bordering on a Fascist bully, Jack stumbles through life illuminating it while blindly chasing after his next bit of skirt. In her odd combination of upper-crust background and attitudes and her fashionable adherence to an ill-conceived notion of the class struggle, Jill is a bogus figure, destructive of the Socialist cause without ever being aware of her negative influence, until, that is, Percy calls it to her attention. A woman who has nothing to lose by her political beliefs, she can remain stupid and cruel while appearing knowing and benign.

Abershaw is probably the most evil character of all of Lewis’ creations. Motivated solely by his own greed and power, he sucks innocent and guilty alike into his vortex of manipulation and deceit. He unthinkingly involves Victor and Margot in a sham gunrunning operation and willingly disposes of them without remorse. He is the central symbol for the novel, which Lewis originally intended to call “False Bottoms” and which possesses at its beginning and end images of concealed or hidden compartments, echoing the themes of deception and betrayal which dog the footsteps of the characters throughout the novel.

Characters Discussed

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Percy Hardcaster

Percy Hardcaster, a fat Englishman of forty; he is five feet, eight inches tall and is a propagandist for the Communists in the Spanish Civil War. He has a little mustache, and he wears silver-rimmed spectacles. He is shot in the leg while trying to escape from a Spanish prison; infection sets in, and the leg must be amputated. He disputes the truth of Marxist politics with Gillian and is beaten by Jack Cruze. He runs guns into Spain with Victor Stamp; he is captured and returned to prison there.

Victor Stamp

Victor Stamp, a big Australian painter, twenty-six years old. A decent man, he recognizes his limitations as an artist, but this awareness robs him of any sense of purpose. He loans pictures to the People’s Art League but cannot sell them. He tries working for Freddie Salmon, faking paintings by Vincent van Gogh, but he destroys his work. He goes with Percy and Margot to the Spanish frontier, where he is used as bait in smuggling guns to Communists. He and Margot die from a fall during a mountain storm while trying to escape from the Spanish Civil Guard.

Margaret (Margot) Stamp

Margaret (Margot) Stamp, Victor’s common-law wife, twenty-four years old. Devoted to Victor, she retains faith in him despite his failures. She accompanies him to the Spanish frontier, where she tries to prevent him from running guns for the Communists. She dies with Victor while trying to escape from Spain to France through the mountains.

Tristram (Tristy) Phipps

Tristram (Tristy) Phipps, a painter and friend of Victor Stamp, six feet, two inches tall. He lives with Gillian in a basement flat near the Thames. A dedicated Communist, he quarrels with Gillian over politics, and she leaves him. He accepts work for Freddie Salmon making counterfeit paintings.

Gillian (Jill) Phipps

Gillian (Jill) Phipps, Tristy’s wife, a Communist who was born in privileged circumstances. A self-consciously liberated woman, she enjoys toying with men. When a dalliance with Percy Hardcaster turns into a quarrel in which he dismisses her as a pampered intellectual who gets a thrill from her association with the working class, she watches with complicity as Jack Cruze gives him a brutal beating. Later, she moves in with Jack.

John “Jack” Cruze

John “Jack” Cruze, a stocky man of forty, five feet, eight inches tall, and an inveterate chaser of women. His father was a country constable, but he is an actuary in the London offices to which Tristram Phipps goes for help with tax matters. Jack pursues Gillian, who treats him with a mixture of seductiveness and condescension that both angers and arouses him.

Don Alvaro Morato

Don Alvaro Morato (AHL-vah-roh moh-RAH-toh), a prison guard. He shoots Percy Hardcaster and kills Percy’s accomplice during Percy’s attempted escape. Black-mustached and cynical, he despises the English Communists fighting in the Spanish Civil War.

Serafin

Serafin (seh-rah-FEEN), a prison guard subordinate to Don Alvaro, about thirty years old, with a hanging underlip, a squinting and winking left eye, a small mustard mustache, bad gums, and amber eyes. He is shot and killed by Don Alvaro when he attempts to help Percy escape.

Don Agustin

Don Agustin (ah-guhs-TEEN), a Communist imprisoned with Percy in Spain.

Pascual

Pascual (pahs-KWAHL), the Communist who arranged Percy’s escape. He visits Percy in the hospital and rails against the brutality of Serafin’s death.

Sean O’Hara

Sean O’Hara, an Irish-born Communist leader, dwarfish and dark. He and his wife give a party in honor of the heroic Percy after his return to England from the Spanish prison. According to rumors that he denies, he is guilty of serious betrayals. He and Abershaw send Percy and Victor to smuggle guns into Spain.

Eileen O’Hara

Eileen O’Hara, Sean’s English wife, thirty years old and of middle-class background. She is disturbed by the rumors about her husband despite her desire to disbelieve them.

Peter Wallace

Peter Wallace, born Reuben Wallach, a Communist art critic who writes about pictures and sculpture. He discusses modern painting with Victor and Tristram at O’Hara’s party.

“Abb” Abershaw

“Abb” Abershaw, an accomplice of Sean O’Hara and a business partner of Freddie Salmon. He is six feet, three inches tall, with the face of a crook and a small mustache. He forges Victor’s name and sets Victor up as a decoy in the smuggling operation in Spain.

Freddie Salmon

Freddie Salmon, the owner of a “factory” for counterfeiting paintings. He dislikes Victor and provokes him into destroying a fake self-portrait of van Gogh.

Isaac Wohl

Isaac Wohl, a painter who works for Freddie Salmon, specializing in faking paintings by Marie Laurencin.

Agnes Irons

Agnes Irons, a friend of Margot, deeply suntanned from a golfing trip to Malaya. She has large teeth and laughs constantly. She listens to Margot’s troubles.

Don Mateu (Mat)

Don Mateu (Mat) (mah-TEH-ew), the Spanish proprietor of a hotel on the French side of the Spanish frontier. He works with Percy to smuggle arms to the Communists in the Civil War.

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