The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Although Lushington is the protagonist of Venusberg, the focus of its action, and the narrator of its plot developments, he is not as well-defined as one would expect. A mere part of a sentence is devoted to his physical appearance (he has “a pink and white face”), and the reader does not learn much more about his background: a brief mention of a professional family and the information that he has drifted into journalism constitute everything the reader knows about him. In the absence of more precise knowledge, the reader is forced to infer Lushington’s actual character from the little he does say about how he behaves and how other people relate to him.

Powell is sometimes excessively reticent about Lushington’s thoughts and emotions, to the point that it is difficult to empathize with him. When Lushington observes the actions of others, the narration is detailed, objective, and clear. When, however, his own behavior takes center stage, the absence of internal motivation and psychological data distances the reader from him. Although appropriate for overtly political and philosophical works, such as the plays of Bertolt Brecht, in a novel about an individual’s interaction with society this distance between reader and protagonist is unnecessary.

If Lushington remains a rather shadowy figure, several of Venusberg’s other characters do make strong impressions. Ortrud Mavrin is an intriguing combination of the frankly...

(The entire section is 503 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Lushington, a young British journalist, intelligent but inexperienced, assigned to a nameless Baltic country on the eve of its political upheaval, which may result in revolution. He is sorry to leave Lucy, with whom he is in love, but he is nevertheless vulnerable to the attractions of Ortrud Mavrin, whom he meets on the boat. He and Ortrud begin an affair that lasts throughout his stay in the Baltic. Lushington’s approach to life is detached and uninvolved, which may explain why he is always at the furthest edges of the news stories he would like to cover. The deaths of Ortrud and his friend da Costa seem to jolt him into consciousness, and, at the novel’s end, he may be ready to court Lucy more actively.


Lucy, Lushington’s attractive young mistress, a sometime actress. Although Lucy has been married twice, she is not particularly interested in men until, as Lushington’s mistress, she meets da Costa, whom she finds attractive. Most of her letters to Lushington urge him to remind da Costa of her existence. Her disengagement is fully as great as Lushington’s, however, and, at da Costa’s death, she seems passive but willing to accept Lushington as a substitute.

da Costa

da Costa, Lushington’s friend and Oxford schoolmate. Somewhat livelier and more social than Lushington but no less disengaged, da Costa is an honorary attaché at the British legation of the...

(The entire section is 564 words.)