Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 466

Dr. Prentice

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Dr. Prentice, a middle-aged psychiatrist. Prentice is an unscrupulous man who does not hesitate to use his position as a doctor to seduce Geraldine Barclay, who is applying for a job as his secretary. He also refuses to tell the truth, despite the trouble this causes Geraldine with Dr. Rance. It was this same lustful lack of scruples that led him to interfere with an unknown chambermaid at the Station Hotel many years before, resulting in her conception of Geraldine and Nick.

Dr. Rance

Dr. Rance, a psychiatrist sent from the government to check on how psychiatric clinics are being run. He is a brutal, power-mad doctor, and he tries to certify everybody as insane, though it is obvious that he is the only one who is truly mad.

Mrs. Prentice

Mrs. Prentice, Dr. Prentice’s wife. During a brief stint as a chambermaid at the Station Hotel, she was raped in a linen cupboard during a power outage (hence her inability to recognize her attacker as her fiancé, Dr. Prentice). She is a blasé, disillusioned woman who belongs to a lesbian women’s group. The failure of the Prentices’ marriage is attributed to the fact that Mrs. Prentice refused to consummate their marriage during their wedding night.

Nicholas (Nick) Beckett

Nicholas (Nick) Beckett, a page boy from the Station Hotel, now an applicant for the job as Dr. Prentice’s secretary. Nick is an accomplished typist and blackmailer with an insatiable sexual appetite, exemplified by his attempted rape of Mrs. Prentice (his mother) and the accomplished molestation of “a section of the Priory Road School for girls” on the same night. He turns out to be Geraldine’s twin brother and the Prentices’ son.

Geraldine Barclay

Geraldine Barclay, an applicant for the position as Dr. Prentice’s secretary. A young, attractive girl, she is trusting and believes in telling the truth. Although she is the only person with any morals (except, perhaps, for Sergeant Match), she gets the brunt of Dr. Rance’s abuse, as when he cuts off all of her hair. Her ignorance of the whereabouts of pieces missing from a statue of Winston Churchill seems symbolic of her purity and naïveté. Ultimately, it is revealed that she is Nick’s twin and the Prentices’ daughter.

Sergeant Match

Sergeant Match, a policeman looking for Geraldine Barclay and Nicholas Beckett. His more important mission, however, is to find Geraldine and Sir Winston’s missing parts; of lesser interest is his charge to find the molester of the girls from Priory Road School. Having accomplished his main task, which is of national importance, Match has no qualms about forgetting everything else he has witnessed, though this willingness may be related to the large amount of narcotics that Dr. Prentice has given him.


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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1011

Geraldine Barclay
Geraldine is the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Prentice and the sister of Nick. At the beginning of the play, she does not know who her father is and believes her mother was a chambermaid. She was raised by a Mrs. Barclay, who was recently killed in a gas main explosion. Geraldine applies for a position as secretary to Dr. Prentice, but she can only take dictation at the speed of twenty words per minute and does not know how to type at all. She is a satire of an innocent, accepting Dr. Prentice's explanation of why she needs to undress for her job interview, and when Dr. Prentice asks her to help him test his new contraceptive device, she says she will be ‘‘delighted to help.’’

Of all of the characters in the play, Geraldine seems least able to take control of what happens to her. Attempting to hide his sexual misconduct, Dr. Prentice tells the others that Geraldine is a mental patient, and she is consequently...

(The entire section contains 1477 words.)

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Critical Essays