Characters

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Last Updated on September 30, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1364

The characters in The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro, differ in their ages, loyalties, and perspectives. Many are affected by the amnesia-inducing mist, and many experience moments of recollection, in which they remember something from their shared pasts.

Axl

Axl is the primary point of view character throughout The...

(The entire section contains 1655 words.)

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The characters in The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro, differ in their ages, loyalties, and perspectives. Many are affected by the amnesia-inducing mist, and many experience moments of recollection, in which they remember something from their shared pasts.

Axl

Axl is the primary point of view character throughout The Buried Giant. Most of the events in the story are revealed from his perspective, and readers learn of the thoughts and feelings with which he reflects on his experiences. 

The husband of Beatrice, Axl is an elderly—but still strong—and thoughtful Briton who lives in a warren in the countryside. He struggles with memory loss, like many others, but actively tries to remember parts of his life. He reminds Beatrice of their desire to see their son, and so they set out together in search of him.

Axl treasures Beatrice and worries about her health, noticing that she has an altered gait. He recommends that she visit an acquaintance in the nearby Saxon town and later suggests visiting Father Jonus for more medical advice. Beatrice consents, knowing that Father Jonus can also shed light on the mystery of the mist.

Axl demonstrates a keen mind for diplomacy and observation. He is careful with his words and optimistic in his outlook. Both Wistan and Gawain know Axl from many years ago, but he only has glimpses of these memories for much of the novel. Axl serves as a moral center, advocating against unjust means for the sake of peace.

Beatrice

The wife of Axl, Beatrice is an elderly, intelligent Briton who lives in a warren in the countryside. Like many others, she is afflicted by the amnesia-inducing mist and struggles to recollect her past. She is excited about visiting her son in a nearby village after Axl proposes the trip.

She suffers from a physical condition that causes her to walk with a slightly altered gait—a condition that worries Axl. She speaks Saxon and serves as a guide for the elderly couple when they initially set out for their son's village. She worries that her past with Axl and her son contains unpleasant memories, but she is keen to learn the truth behind the mist and regain her memories. Throughout the novel, she serves as a beneficent influence on Axl, Wistan, Gawain, Edwin, and others.

Wistan

A Saxon raised among Britons, Wistan is a charismatic, talented warrior willing to assist others as he pursues his quest. He rescues the young boy, Edwin, from the ogres that attacked the Saxon village. He takes the boy as his charge and recognizes his warrior spirit. He takes time throughout the journey to educate Edwin on strategy and tactics, and he expresses genuine concern for the boy's health.

Wistan is deceptive about his reasons for traveling among Britons. He tells Axl and Beatrice that he is on a mission from his king in the fen-filled Saxon lands. He has a shared history with Lord Brennus, who seeks Wistan’s death, and an uneasy relationship with Sir Gawain, because their ultimate goals are at odds. Unlike many of the other characters, Wistan appears immune to the effects of the amnesia-inducing mist.

Edwin

Edwin is a young Saxon boy from the Saxon village Axl and Beatrice visit. He is captured by ogres before their arrival, held in a hooded cage, and tormented by a creature with a serpentine head. He fights with the creature, but he is not afraid, despite its biting him. He is rescued by Wistan, who takes him as his charge. He only speaks Saxon and so can only communicate with Wistan and Beatrice.

Edwin has several point-of-view chapters in The Buried Giant, in which his memories and experiences illuminate the group's journey. Notably, Edwin frequently hears the voice of his mother calling him to rescue her. He desires to do so, relying on his courage and warrior spirit, which Wistan and Steffa, an old warrior from Edwin's childhood, acknowledge.

Sir Gawain

Sir Gawain is an elderly and fiercely loyal knight to his cousin, the late King Arthur. Axl and Beatrice hear rumors that Gawain was tasked many years ago with slaying the she-dragon Querig, but he has yet to accomplish his mission. They encounter Gawain and his horse, Horace, in the hills on their way to the monastery. Although Gawain is effusive in his talk and observations, evidence that he is old and foolish, he proves to still possess a savvy mind and strong body.

Gawain has several point-of-view chapters in The Buried Giant, which are called "reveries." Much of the past is revealed during his reveries, such as his knowledge of Axl’s identity and the cause of the mist. Gawain acknowledges his role in many past events, which others perceive as tragic or unjust. However, he is steadfast in his loyalty to King Arthur and unwavering in fulfilling his mission.

Father Jonus

Father Jonus is a Christian monk. Axl and Beatrice learn of him from a medicine woman in the Saxon village. Jonus is a known healer, and so Axl and Beatrice decide to visit him. When Wistan and Edwin join the elderly couple, they also seek Jonus's wisdom, hoping the monk will inspect Edwin's bite mark. Beatrice also learns that Jonus knows the secret behind the mist, and she is eager to know the truth.

Jonus is bedridden due to injuries he sustained during a session of penance. He is aided by Father Ninian, a monk who has taken a vow of silence. Wistan challenges his practice of penance, claiming that such pain is cruel and unnecessary. Jonus is steadfast in his beliefs, and the two eventually find common ground. Jonus acknowledges the truth behind the mist once Wistan reveals it, but he continues to aid the group in their quest for Querig.

Ivor

An elderly Briton, Ivor lives in the Saxon village and has some influence over the villagers. He admonishes the crowd when they accost Axl and Beatrice, and he provides counsel to the village and Wistan.

Father Brian

A Christian monk, Father Brian is helpful to Axl and Beatrice during their stay at the monastery. When soldiers arrive, he helps Axl, Beatrice, and Edwin escape into a tunnel below. However, when Gawain arrives to help, he reveals the truth: Father Brian and the monks use the tunnel to dispose of people.

Lord Brennus

A Briton lord, Brennus has power and influence. Having heard of a Saxon warrior in his land, he sent soldiers to capture or kill Wistan. Brennus is revealed to have been a childhood acquaintance of Wistan's. They trained in martial arts together; however, Brennus always leveraged his title to win contests. He also insulted and abused Wistan.

The Old Woman and the Dark Widows

Axl and Beatrice encounter an old woman and a boatman in a dilapidated villa on a rainy evening. They learn that the old woman was not allowed to ferry to a nearby island with her husband, and she blames the boatman. Axl and Beatrice learn that the old woman and her husband were questioned and that boatmen rarely allow couples to cross together.

Gawain is plagued by dark widows, and it is unclear whether they are living, dead, or part of his imagination. They all share the same experience with the old woman: they were unable to cross to a nearby island with their husbands. They blame Gawain for his involvement with the mist, claiming he robbed them of their memories and so they could not answer the boatmen's questions.

King Arthur and Merlin

Heralded as a peacemaker between the Britons and the Saxons, Arthur left the land united through his own efforts and those of his wizard, Merlin. Though neither is alive or seen during the events of The Buried Giant, their presence manifests in the memories of Gawain and Axl.

The Boatman

Although several boatmen appear in The Buried Giant, the final chapter is told from the perspective of one particular boatman. It is suggested that this boatman has been narrating many of the events in the story, because his knowledge of Axl and Beatrice's relationship is extensive. When Beatrice realizes their son is on a nearby island, the boatman offers to ferry her and Axl across the river to the island.

Characters

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 291

Two of the main characters are a married couple, Axl and Beatrice, who are Britons. Axl’s perspective dominates much of the novel. Living in the countryside, the elderly man has lost much of his memory but remains a keen observer; recalling life with their son, he persuades Beatrice that they should visit him in a neighboring town.

Beatrice is also aging and has developed some medical problems, especially with her legs, which lead her to seek out Father Jonus. Her memory loss is more advanced than her husband’s, and she worries that the loss of memories is covering up problems they had experienced.

Wistan, a warrior on a quest, is originally a Saxon but grew up among the Britons. While his mission may include a rivalry with Sir Gawain, Lord Brennus is a definite enemy. Wistan is training Edwin, a boy he rescued from ogres, in the warrior’s craft.

Edwin had been captured and imprisoned; even from his cage, he had fought with the serpentine monster. After his rescue by Wistan, he decides to rescue his mother.

Sir Gawain, who had been one of the late King Arthur’s knights, embarks on a dragon-slaying quest whose victory still eludes him. He feels conflicts between his former prowess and his current declining powers. Many of Gawain’s memories remain strong, including his knowledge of Axl’s past.

Father Jonus and Father Brian are both Christian monks. Jonus is not only a healer but one of the few who understands the memory-erasing mist. Brian helps Axl and Beatrice at the monastery, but he also has a role in killing other “refugees.”

Lord Brennus is a powerful Briton lord and sworn enemy of Wistan—an antagonism dating to their shared childhood.

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