The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

In John Lestrade, of whom, as with so many of the characters, the reader is given a clear psychological picture but little physical detail, Garth St. Omer masterfully dramatizes the central topic of A Room on the Hill: the universal question of what constitutes a meaningful existence. It is John’s mind which works out the mental and philosophical framework before which the quest for an answer cannot begin. His observations of his world and the other characters provide insight into the many different ways in which the people of the island try to come to terms with their existence. It is John also who is given the most lucid insight into the darker sides of island life. Talking with Stephen, he observes how like automatons are civil servants trapped in their daily routines, and it is he who observes on several occasions in the novel that life has become an illusion, or game, and that “hope, in the phrase of the island, [is] only a motor-boat.” At the end of the novel, John has “learnt that all his actions were consolatory only.” For him, nothing on his island has real significance; he has become a somnambulist, who painfully and impatiently waits for an aim he does not yet see.

The only other character privileged with insight is Anne-Marie. At the core of her existence stands the traumatic experience of her illegitimate birth. Unlike John, she has found, if not a belief, at least a something in which she can lose herself and which will...

(The entire section is 470 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

John Lestrade

John Lestrade (leh-STRAHD), a drifter who was once ready to study abroad. A twenty-five-year-old black man from St. Lucia, John is traumatized by the recent death of his mother and the suicide of his best friend, Stephen, two years ago. Extremely thoughtful, meditative, withdrawn, and full of intense memories of the past, John crosses his native island, where he quietly observes the people and the limitations life has imposed on them. After two more untimely deaths, John feels confirmed in his decision to live alone on a day-by-day basis.

Anne-Marie D’Aubain

Anne-Marie D’Aubain (doh-BAY[N]), a civil servant. Her extremely light-colored black skin led her father to deny her illegitimate birth and pass her off as white. Devastated by discovering this fraud, her tragedy continues when Anne-Marie is abandoned by her boyfriend, Derek, whom she meets again on the beach of the island shortly before her death in a car driven by her new lover. The Catholic church refuses to bury her, so the service is performed by friends.


Stephen, a young black man on St. Lucia. He haunts the life of John, who stood helplessly at the beach while Stephen drowned himself because his father had squandered the money for his studies. He had dreamed that as an engineer he could leave behind something of permanence.


(The entire section is 546 words.)