George Ponderevo, an enterprising young scientist and the narrator. The son of the housekeeper at Bladesover House, a large country estate, he learns about class barriers at an early age. When he is twelve years old, he falls desperately in love with a pampered young aristocrat, the Honorable Beatrice Normandy, who is eight. Two years later, he is banished when he fights with her snobbish half brother, Archie Garvell, and Beatrice, turning against her admirer, blames him for attacking Archie. After an unhappy experience in the household of one uncle, he is apprenticed to another, Edward Ponderevo, a small-time pharmacist with big dreams. Later, he wins a scholarship at the Consolidated Technical Schools in London, but he begins to neglect his studies after he meets Marion Ramboat, whom he later marries. He finds work with his Uncle Edward, marries Marion, is divorced after she discovers his infidelity, and finds material success in the patent medicine boom his uncle has created by flamboyantly advertising a product called Tono-Bungay. He then takes up the study of aircraft design, and as the result of a crash he meets Beatrice again. When the Tono-Bungay financial empire collapses, he goes on an expedition to secure a cargo of quap, a mysterious ore containing elements needed for the manufacture of a better lamp filament. The expedition is unsuccessful, and George flies his ruined uncle to France. He and Beatrice share a twelve-day romance, but she refuses to marry him. Disillusioned with himself and the degenerating society of his time, he turns to the designing of destroyers for a future war.
Mrs. Ponderevo, George’s mother, the competent housekeeper at Bladesover House. Stern and unsympathetic, she shows her affection for her son only after he has been sent to live with Edward Ponderevo. She dies soon afterward, leaving her savings to George.
Edward (Teddy) Ponderevo
Edward (Teddy) Ponderevo, George Ponderevo’s flashy, unscrupulous, and ambitious but likable uncle. As a pharmacist, he squanders his nephew’s inheritance and goes into bankruptcy. Later, as the manufacturer of Tono-Bungay, a popular nostrum, and as the manager of a huge corporation called Domestic Utilities (familiarly known as Do-Ut), he acquires the wealth and power of which he has always...
(The entire section is 971 words.)