Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time

by Peter Taylor
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Characters

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 377

The main characters in "Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time" are the strange and elderly brother and sister Alfred and Louisa Dorset, the paper boy Tom Bascomb, and the young brother and sister Ned and Emily Meriweather.

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The affluent town in West Vesey view Alfred and Louisia as odd and eccentric. Alfred offends people by walking around town with his sweater down his trousers, as if he just has come out of the toilet, and Louisa offends people by answering her door in her night dress and her black hair down, looking like an "Indian squaw." The author says the community tolerates them because they place importance of things other than money.

As Louisa likes to say "We've given everything for each other." They have rejected their family's inheritance and instead earn their money selling paper flowers and figs to their friends.

Every year they organise a dance party for the 13- and 14-year-olds of the town. They are the only people that ever get to see the inside of the Dorset's rundown house and it is said that it gives them nightmares. Their parents never want them to go, but feel that they have no choice. They view the Dorset's party as some kind of rites of passage.

This year, Ned and Emily Mortimer decide to play a trick on the Dorsets. Just before Mr. Dorset comes to pick the children up in his car, Ned swaps places with the paper boy Tom Bascomb. The three of them know that the Dorsets won't want Tom at the party because he doesn't live in West Vesey and isn't well bred.

During the party their joke backfires. Upon seeing Tom and Emily joking around and kissing each other, Ned gets upset and shouts they are brother and sister. Everyone laughs except for the Dorsets who accuse Ned of being an intruder and lock him in their bathroom. Tom, who is a good and responsible young man, phones the Meriweather's parents and leaves.

The story ends with the author explaining what happened to the characters. The Dorsets stopped selling their wares and never gave another party. Tom became a hero in the war. Emily and Ned's parents sent them to boarding school and their relationship was never as close again.

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