Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Dave Galloway

Dave Galloway, a watchmaker and repairer with his own small shop in Everton, New York. He is the novel’s center of consciousness. Forty-three years old, a good citizen, and an ordinary, happy man not much given to reflection, at the opening of the novel Dave has still to learn the “secret in men” which he hopes to communicate at the novel’s close to the grandson who will shortly be born to his imprisoned son. The alienation and purposelessness of the modern hero are registered in the details of his drab small-town existence: his lack of friends, his retreat from women, and his clockworklike home habits and work routines. So contracted is his life that he depends almost entirely for love and recognition—for a very sense of self—on the son to whom he has been both father and mother since his wife Ruth left him fifteen years ago, when Ben was an infant. Dave attempts not simply to understand why Ben has stolen and murdered but also to assert the unbroken continuity and closeness of their relationship. Dave’s bewildered attempt to do so comes in the face of the fact that Ben has severed his ties with the past and his father, refusing even to acknowledge his presence in court. As a result of his quest to maintain a relationship with Ben, Dave confronts his own deeply buried desire to rebel (which drove him to marry the town tramp) and that of his long-dead father. Through such a quasi-mystical sense of heredity, he can cling to a sense of identity with Ben.

Ben Galloway

Ben Galloway, Dave’s sixteen-year-old-son, quiet and self-possessed, a good...

(The entire section is 661 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Dave is the only character in The Watchmaker of Everton who achieves any degree of roundness. Simenon gives his character life by looking into his mind. His motives are explained with each thought or action, and his past experiences are connected with those of the present, thereby unifying the psychological motifs and the parts of the story. Because Simenon is more concerned with telling a story about the modern world than with creating believable characters, however, even Dave does not receive the author’s complete attention. Once he is understood to be Everyman, Dave is little more than a stereotype. Readers will identify with him, however, and sympathize with him, because Simenon treats him with understanding and humanity.

The other characters are seen only through Dave’s eyes. Ben scarcely has any existence except as Dave perceives him; he is a constant presence merely because Dave is constantly thinking about him. Dave’s failed relationship with his son is the reason for the story, and thus the details of the novel are often about Ben. Interestingly, although she is not a character in the present narrative, Ben’s mother—Dave’s wife—is more fully realized than Ben, perhaps because she exercises such a forceful influence on the lives of others, especially Dave’s. She led Dave to the one significant revolt in his life. Lillian is like Dave’s former wife only insofar as she is a catalyst in Ben’s revolt, for Lillian, like her parents, is peripheral to the major incidents of the novel.

Indeed, all the other characters are presented either to give Dave definition or to round out the action. Musak is described rather than dramatized. He is in the story only to help account for the way in which Dave spends his time. Wilbur Lane, Ben’s lawyer, through a few brush strokes of Simenon’s word-painting, comes to life for a short time, only to fade back into Dave’s reflections on his family.


(Great Characters in Literature)

Becker, Lucille F. Georges Simenon, 1977.

Bresler, Fenton. The Mystery of Georges Simenon, 1983.

Galligan, Edward L. “Simenon’s Mosaic of Small Novels,” in South Atlantic Quarterly. LXVI (Autumn, 1967), pp. 534-543.

Mauriac, Claude. “Georges Simenon,” in The New Literature, 1959.

Raymond, John. Simenon in Court, 1968.