The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Maggie Vardoe displays independence of spirit, generosity, and good common sense in everything she undertakes, except in her decision to marry Edward Vardoe. Her sensitivity to nature is revealed in the opening paragraph when she follows the flight of birds toward the mountains in the distance. In all of her activities, she approaches perfection: Her fishing flies are flawless her plan to leave her husband is perfectly executed, and all of her work at the fishing lodge is almost godlike. Yet her life has been flawed by the deaths of her first husband, their child, her father, and her second marriage. She displays remarkable self-control and presence of mind whether in leaving her husband, in confronting an antagonistic Vera Gunnarsen, or in saving Mr. Cunningham: “Her pleasures were very few, and were not communicable and she had long formed the habit of seeking and finding, where she could private enjoyment of the sort that costs nothing but an extension of the imagination.” Hilda Severance remarks that Maggie is calm and placid; she is associated with a divine state of being—“[I]t takes God Himself to be fair to two different people at once”—and she is described as a “god floating” in the water. Nell Severance writes her about the “third dimension that includes perception and awareness of other people”—a third dimension that portrays the development of both women. Nell also writes that “no one can write about perfect love because it cannot be committed to words even by those who know about it.” The omniscient narrator, perfect Maggie, and narratively omnipotent but physically crippled Nell know about love, language, and their limitations.

Nell possesses a more forceful will than Maggie and inflicts it...

(The entire section is 711 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Maggie Vardoe

Maggie Vardoe, also known as Maggie Lloyd, a young widow, married for the second time, to a man whom she detests. Her beauty is not immediately apparent, and she makes no effort to look beautiful, but her eyes are large, gray, and “tranquil,” and her body is characterized by “large easy curves.” Maggie is self-sufficient, even secretive, and confides very little about her present unhappiness or the pain of losing her first husband and her daughter, even to her closest friends Hilda and Nell Severance. Having decided to leave her second husband, Eddie Vardoe, she ties fishing flies in secret for more than a year to earn money and slips away one night after dinner so unobtrusively that it takes several hours for her husband to notice her absence. Maggie seeks escape and peace away from the city of Vancouver in the mountains of British Columbia, where she tries to re-create the happy setting of her childhood and first marriage at an East Coast fishing lodge. A naturally nurturing and competent woman, Maggie becomes cook and eventually manager of a fishing lodge owned by Haldar and Vera Gunnarsen at Three Loon Lake. Maggie, who had hoped to escape not only her husband but also all emotional involvement with people, finds that she is faced with several crises caused by Vera’s envy of Maggie’s competence and increasing influence with Haldar and their son, Alan.

Nell Severance

Nell Severance, formerly a beautiful circus performer, now in her seventies, her movement limited by obesity. She married into an aristocratic but eccentric English family. Nell has kept the Swamp Angel, a revolver that she used in her juggling act, as a reminder of...

(The entire section is 697 words.)