The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The fact that the gipsy had no name for Yvette until the last line of the story is sufficient indication that he is not a real person to her but rather a symbolic embodiment of a life of vitality and freedom as opposed to the deathly world of the rectory and its stagnant sense of middle-class morality and middle-aged death-in-life. Moreover, the inhabitants of the rectory—her father, her aunt, her uncle, and especially old Granny—are more symbolic embodiments than they are real. Her father embodies narrow middle-class morality, whereas her aunt and uncle represent the repressed and meaningless life of middle age. Granny is the central representative of the decayed life of the rectory, the “pivot” of the family, which she covers and controls with her power.

Yvette is the central figure in the battle between the forces of gipsy vitality and the sterility of the deathly world of the rectory. Her older sister Lucille primarily seems to serve the contrasting function of one who is more resigned than Yvette to slip into the harness of bourgeois morality and thus marry and settle down. Yvette’s mother, “She-who-was-Cynthia,” although not physically present in the novella, is an embodiment of one who has escaped these mundane devotions to strike out on her own.

Yvette is a reincarnation of her mother’s yearning for freedom as well as her carelessness and immaturity. Although she elicits the reader’s sympathy because of her entrapment within the stifling world of the rectory, at the same time she alienates the reader with her selfishness. At least at first glance, however, there seems little doubt that the narrator, perhaps the most important “character” in the story, is fully in sympathy with her plight and completely scornful of the world of the rectory. Although the narrator remains an unnamed, omniscient figure throughout, it is his judgmental voice that dominates the action. It is thus by the narrator’s point of view and his possibly ironic tone that the complexity of the novella’s value system is communicated.

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Yvette Saywell

Yvette Saywell, a nineteen-year-old who has just returned home from school. A proud, spoiled young woman, Yvette causes friction in the family because she does not take responsibility for her own actions. Like her sister, she is both attracted and repelled by the notion of having a relationship with a man. Because she does not like the “common” boys who are attracted to her, she decides never to fall in love. The candor of this “virgin witch” brings her both admirers and enemies. Because of her longing for freedom, she identifies more with the carefree Gypsies than with the members of her own family. After her father reprimands her for visiting the Eastwoods, she becomes hard, detached, and revengeful; only the Gypsy is able to reveal the mysteries of love to Yvette, thereby bringing her “back to life.”

Lucille Saywell

Lucille Saywell, Yvette’s older sister and confidant. Unlike Yvette, this aristocratic-looking twenty-one-year-old not only takes care of household matters involving doctors and servants but also works at a job in town from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. every day. Her insolence toward Granny and her belief that a girl should have flings and then marry at the age of twenty-six have much to do with Yvette’s rebellion against her family and her involvement with the Gypsy.

The rector

The rector, the father of Yvette and Lucille. Heavy and inert, this forty-seven-year-old man is fanatically afraid of the unconventional, which is why he prevents Yvette from visiting the Eastwoods. Although he still worships his departed wife, he is greatly disturbed by Yvette’s similarities to this woman.

The Mater

The Mater, the girls’ grandmother, who is the matriarch of the household. Obese, bedridden, and nearly blind, this “toad-like” creature never...

(The entire section is 798 words.)