The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The central character and voice of the fiction is the “Snooty Baronet,” a journalistic epithet used by Michael Kell-Imrie, a former serviceman who sustained an unbelievable number of wounds during the Great War, leaving him with a mechanical leg, which squeaks if it is not oiled often enough, and a plate in his head, which bothers him during weather changes. This opinionated and acerbic writer stumbled into his profession by trying to write a book in which he takes the side of Moby Dick against Ahab and the gang of louts who hunt him. His fish book, as Snooty calls it, received a publicity boost when on a fishing trip Snooty actually caught an unbelievably large game fish, a feat which attracted nationwide attention in the press. This publicity, along with his minor title, provides him with sufficient notoriety to be able to earn a living by his ideas. What he really wants to write about, however, is how people behave, but his conclusions are so radical that they disconcert his readers. Thus, his books on social behavior do not sell very well. The interesting relationship between works of fiction and unpopular philosophical or political volumes mirrors Lewis’ career during the 1930’s, when his political and social beliefs became quite objectionable.

Val and Lily represent two types of fictional heroines popular in the serious fiction of the interwar years. Val as an artist manque retains faint echos of Aldous Huxley’s characters in such works as...

(The entire section is 480 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Sir Michael Kell-Imrie

Sir Michael Kell-Imrie (known as Snooty or Snoots), the author-narrator, who is almost forty years old. Although he is poor, he is the seventeenth baronet of his Scottish family. He was wounded five times during World War I. His artificial leg is removed by his mistress before they have sex; afterward, he suffers illness resulting from head wounds. A writer of scientific books about behaviorism, he is celebrated most for his fictional skills. He developed his interest in animals after catching a huge fish and reading Moby Dick. Persuaded to pretend to be captured by a Persian bandit while researching Mithra religious cults, he reads D. H. Lawrence’s work on animal worship. Although he despises Persia, he cooperates with Humph, allowing Val to pay his passage and accompany him; finally, he shoots Humph to death for pleasure, abandons Val to smallpox, and finds solace in the arms of a Persian harem girl on the Bosphorus.

Captain Humphrey (Humph) Cooper Carter

Captain Humphrey (Humph) Cooper Carter, Snooty’s literary agent in London. He has a big head, a large chin, and short legs. He met Snooty in the Scots Guards during World War I. He held a desk job for most of the war, while Snooty was in the trenches. He concocts the scheme for Snooty to be kidnapped by a Persian bandit to extract ransom money and attract publicity. He is shot and killed by Snooty during the rendezvous with Mirza Aga’s bandits.

Mrs. Valerie (Val) Ritter

Mrs. Valerie (Val) Ritter, Snooty’s first girlfriend, whom he visits in Chelsea as soon as he returns to London from America. She is between thirty and forty years old and already has a double chin, thinning hair, and pocked skin. She has the annoying habit of giggling constantly, but she knows how to please Snooty in bed. She writes pornographic novels that are never published, and she pays for Snooty’s passage to Persia so that she can accompany him and Humph. Although she...

(The entire section is 824 words.)