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.)