The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

John’s attempt to purge himself of guilt for the death of Victoria is constantly frustrated by an unfeeling and indifferent world. Most of the novel’s characters hate children, especially the headmasters of the schools John attends. These educators, the black legend of Mr. Chips, are different from their Dickensian counterparts only in their preference for psychological, rather than physical, birching. Most of the other characters are similarly unsympathetic, being preoccupied with maintaining appearances and consistently indifferent to anything outside themselves.

John’s mother, a source of authority and respect, is distant and threatening, believing that problems find their proper solution through a faith in God, an attitude that has little relevance to her son. John’s only described encounter with the Anglican clergy other than his relations with his minister father ends disastrously. Father Delaura’s lack of understanding and his hostility convinces John that it is impossible to achieve solace through the Anglican faith; “crossing himself for the last time,” he hurries out of the church.

The sole person who seems to be interested in him is Greenbloom, an enticing neurotic with so much money he can pass as eccentric. Greenbloom, though, is as self-centered as everyone else, albeit more amusing and friendly. He convinces John that he is genuinely concerned about him. Consequently, in John’s eyes, Greenbloom can do no wrong....

(The entire section is 461 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

John Blaydon

John Blaydon, a sensitive and thoughtful student, the son of an Anglican minister. Almost thirteen at the opening of the novel, he is thin, pale, and tall; he is preparing to enter the university when the book ends. At a tennis party, he meets and falls deeply in love with Victoria Blount. She becomes his ideal image of love and beauty and seems like a part of his own being; when she is murdered, his life becomes and remains emotionally and spiritually disrupted. Burdened with an obscure sense of guilt and of purposelessness, by early manhood he is even contemplating suicide. Meeting Dymphna Uprichard, a girl much like Victoria, restores his faith in himself and his interest in life and helps confirm his discovery that he has a mission as a writer, though he will train as a physician to gratify his parents.

Victoria Blount

Victoria Blount, John’s platonic love, approximately thirteen years old when he first meets her. She impresses him with her whiteness (metaphorically, her purity). She has fine, long black hair but very pale skin and is dressed all in white for the tennis party. Her large gray eyes shine out of a narrow white face. She has an attractively old-fashioned quality about her that sets her apart from the other children and suggests an ideal of purity and goodness. An innocent, she proposes, when they have wandered away from the party, that she and John go swimming even though they have no bathing suits. He commits himself to protecting her when he saves her from drowning. High-spirited, friendly, and too trusting, over John’s protests she accepts a ride from a stranger after she and John have been picnicking in a cave. That stranger takes her back to the cave and strangles her. She lives on in John’s mind as a symbol of love and a source of guilt for his not having saved her from harm.

Horab Greenbloom

Horab Greenbloom, who is...

(The entire section is 794 words.)