The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The family is dominated by the kindly, eager figure of Mr. Garden and his perpetual quest for the true faith. His influence over his children can be understood not only through their symbolic names but also through the liberal religious base from which they all develop—some, such as Victoria, a conformists, others, such as Stanley, Maurice, and Rome, in various forms of dissent.

Stanley is an idealist. Whether working for the poor of East London, the, suffragette movement, or, in the Georgian period, the League of Nation Union, she throws her whole soul into everything she does, including marrying Denman. It is because of her need for total commitment that she cannot cope with a philandering husband yet suffers deeply when they part.

Maurice is the arch-dissenter, too tetchy and intolerant to share his life with anybody, least of all with the small-minded Amy. Yet the consistent and intelligence of his uncompromising political stance earns for him increasing respect.

Rome is perhaps the cleverest—and the least fulfilled—of all the Gardens. Although there are as many viewpoints as there are characters in the book, her attitude of wry passivity toward life is dominant and parallels the voice of the author herself, whose own opinions are expressed directly in the many witty passages of commentary.

The novel’s most intriguing character (although not fully realized) is Victoria’s daughter Imogen, whose...

(The entire section is 541 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Aubrey Garden

Aubrey Garden, a liberal clergyman. When the story begins, he is fifty years old, distinguished-looking, and melancholy, with bright blue eyes. Earnest and intellectual, he is a spiritual Don Quixote, forever questing after “the truth.” His wife and children react with varying degrees of loyalty, sympathy, and ironic tolerance to each spiritual crisis; his switching of faiths usually causes a switching of jobs and living situations. In his intense devotion to various religions, he names his children for their symbols. When he dies in 1914, he has realized that for him, only a combination of all religions equals truth.

Mrs. Garden

Mrs. Garden, his loyal, patient wife. In her mid-forties, she is devoted to her family, adapting serenely to Aubrey’s perpetual quest for truth until she finally gets her fill of switching and announces her intention of staying at home while he worships. She secretly grieves over Maurice’s unhappy marriage and his perpetual war with society but remains remarkably tolerant of her children’s quirks. Even at her death from cancer in 1903, she refuses to burden her children with guilt by bequeathing the care of their bereaved father to them.

Victoria Garden

Victoria Garden, the eldest daughter, named for her father’s temporary victory over unbelief. At the age of twenty-three, she is slim and graceful, with thick chestnut hair and gray eyes. Lively and affectionate, she adores parties, dresses, music, beaux, and aesthetics. She marries Charles Carrington, bears five children, and runs with energy and vivacity a warm if not intellectually stimulating household.

Rome Garden

Rome Garden, the second daughter, named (ironically, as she vacillates between agnosticism and atheism) for the Catholic Church. At twenty years of age, she is pale and slender, with fair hair and intense blue-green eyes. Although she never marries, she falls in love with a married man, Francis...

(The entire section is 825 words.)