Percival, a childhood friend of the six central characters, who respect, admire, and love him. He is the symbol of the ordinary man, a conventional figure. Rather awkward and bumbling but pleasant and accepted everywhere, Percival forms the light around whom the six-sided flower revolves, as Bernard put it. In love with the natural woman, Susan, he is beloved by Neville, the scholar and brilliant poet. A sportsman, a hale fellow, a poor scholar, and finally a soldier who dies in India, Percival represents a kind of norm in personality and conduct.
Bernard, the phrase maker, the chronicler of the group of childhood friends as they grope toward death, the great adversary of all human life, he thinks. Through Bernard, the rest of the characters see life, because in his attempt to grasp reality, he is able to become whomever he meets or talks with. Although he sees himself as a failure, he does catch essences and makes of these his unfinished stories, tales that Percival once saw through and would not let him finish. Deeply devoted to his best friend, Neville, he nevertheless is all things to all the characters. A husband, father, provider, and friend, he becomes, finally, a seer who tries to sum up the meaning of experiences all have shared.
Neville, a poet, scrupulous artist, lover of a single man, and sensitive genius who keeps his life carefully wrapped and labeled. He is gaunt and handsome, gifted with the tongue of all great men and able to mimic them from Catullus to William Shakespeare. He finds it difficult to survive the shock of Percival’s death. He turns...
(The entire section is 684 words.)