The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Both the excitement of its battle scenes and the impact of its demolition of Victorian assumptions tend to overshadow The Siege of Krishnapur’s cast of characters. The variety of the personalities depicted, however, and the varying responses evoked by the hardships of the siege do provide a degree of human interest that complements the novel’s more general historical and philosophical concerns.

The locus of the narrative, like the organization of Krishnapur’s defense, originates in the person of Mr. Hopkins, the Collector. It is he who first senses the impending rebellion, and it is his foresight and resolution that enable the garrison to hold out until help arrives. Since he is by far the strongest character among the defenders, a firm believer in the advance of reason and progress as well as a brave and resourceful leader, his gradual loss of faith in human perfectability is the most tragic occurrence in the book: If even a man of the Collector’s convictions and experience can see no light at the end of the tunnel, Farrell implies, the rest may well despair of what the future holds.

The quirky figures of Willoughby, the Magistrate who fantasizes about feeling the bumps on people’s heads, and Hampton, the Padre whose literal interpretation of the Bible becomes increasingly divorced from the real needs of his parishioners, are clever personifications of typical forms of Victorian eccentricity. Doctors Dunstaple and McNab are...

(The entire section is 440 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Mr. Hopkins

Mr. Hopkins, called “the Collector,” the chief adminis-trator of the East India Company in the Krishnapur district of the Bengal Presidency in northeastern India. A large, handsome, brown-haired man with carefully trimmed, low sideburns, he is a fastidious dresser, complete with high collars. Possessing a public sense of dignity and duty, Hopkins is privately moody and often overbearing toward his family. His wife leaves for England, ostensibly after the death of a child, but it seems that the marital relationship was less than happy, for “the Collector” has an eye for the ladies, including a fondness for Miriam Lang. Through Hopkins’ roving eye and commentary, the life and position of women in mid-nineteenth century India is illuminated. Hopkins is a well-rounded character capable not only of the highest duty and courage but also of showing grief and fear. Early in the novel, he demonstrates foresight by preparing for the revolt that he believes is coming and fortitude by continuing his actions amid scoffs and general disdain. Hopkins is in command of the defensive operations at Krishnapur once the sepoy revolt. As the British ominously retreat to their second line of defenses, Hopkins symbolically falls ill with cholera but later returns to lead the final retreat and the last stand. Hopkins’ character strikes a balance between emotionalism and human spirit versus materialism and scientific progress, a conflict that runs through the novel. By the end of the book, however, Hopkins’ faith in both emotionalism and the human spirit seems shattered.

George Fleury

George Fleury, the son of Sir Herbert, who is a director of the East India Company. He has only recently come to India. George is fashionably dressed, but his personality is serious, even somber. He stands in contrast to Louise’s other, more carefree, suitors. A musician, a purported writer, and a poet in the Romantic vein, Fleury originally adopts a strident antimaterialistic tone but, by the end of the novel, acquires an almost unqualified appreciation of modernist ideas and gadgetry. Described as slightly fat and perpetually perspiring, Fleury presents a vulnerable and sometimes humorous character. Fleury is capable of cowardice yet also capable of heroism. He is a secondary protagonist; when the main stream of the novel diverts from Hopkins, it is carried along primarily by Fleury. In the end, he marries Louise.


(The entire section is 1005 words.)