The Ruby in the Smoke Characters
by Philip Pullman

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Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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In the style of the melodrama, Pullman has created sleazy, nasty villains and wholesome, trustworthy, kindhearted heroes and heroines. Even though Sally Lockhart is young, sensitive, and, at times, willing to let Frederick Garland take charge, she is also a resourceful, fearless, determined, and independent heroine. Frederick Garland, the photographer, and Jim Taylor, the office boy, emerge as the principal heroes to help take up Sally's quest. In the end, however, Sally must confront the villains alone. One of the villains, the mean, conniving, manipulative Mrs. Holland who lives at Hangman's Wharf, is a true scoundrel with only one thing in mind: To find the Ruby of Agrapur no matter what it takes. Another villain is the shadowy Hendrick Van Eeden who, with his many identities such as Mr. Todd and Ah Ling, is a lurking menace.

Along with the major characters of Mrs. Holland, Van Eeden, Sally, Frederick, and Jim come a cast of minor characters who are important to the story. There are Mr. Hopkins and Mr. Berry, the evil henchmen of Mrs. Holland; Adelaide, Mrs. Holland's frightened servant girl; and Rosa Garland and Trembler, Sally's friends at the photography shop. Also in the book are the characters of George Marchbanks, Sally's real father; Mrs. Rees, Sally's mean Aunt; and the Bedwell twins, Nicholas the clergyman and Matthew the sailor.

Much of the story is told through the dialogue of the characters and Pullman suits the words to the individual and to his or her station in England's Victorian society. Jim's speech shows his working-class background and he sounds like a "young blackguard" when he tells Sally, "S all right. . .I won't give yer away. I 'heard yer kill old Higgsy, but I ain't...

(The entire section is 440 words.)