The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Meg and Monty consider Giles “pernickety, selfish, imposing.” He is a totally self-centered person who thinks nothing of having Tibba devote her life to him, who sees his wives’ deaths only in terms of how they affect him, who barely notices Louise until she professes her love. His only passion is his Tretis.

Giles’s main motive in devoting his life to this work is not love of scholarship but his desire to show up the Cambridge dons who, twenty years before, denied him a fellowship and the academic life in which he would have reveled—even if blind. He believes that the chaos of his life would not have occurred had not the dons been so callous. Giles gradually decides, however, that he has wasted his life being bitter, realizing that it is “easier to be cynical, cold, skeptical, pessimistic.” He discovers that marriage, fatherhood, and blindness have done little to alter him from the smug undergraduate he once was. Revisiting Cambridge with Louise reminds him of his failure there and all the failures since, and causes him to realize that he has been longing for forgiveness for his hatred of the world. At first, he feels superior to Louise’s dull, devoutly religious Cambridge friends, but he comes to envy their “niceness,” since any such quality in himself has been worn away by cynicism.

Tibba resembles any intelligent, good-natured teenager except that she stammers and knows little of the modern world. She adores Virginia Woolf and tries to...

(The entire section is 610 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Giles Fox

Giles Fox, a blind scholar and librarian, forty-eight years old. His life already is dictated by habit: Every day he wears a gray suit, white shirt, and silk blue tie, and each dinner is a variation of cold meat, noodles, olives, and fresh fruit. He is obsessed by A Tretis of Loue Heuenliche, a medieval tract on virginity, and labors to produce the definitive edition of the text. Ironically, the content of the discourse concerns spiritual love, but by focusing solely on philology and linguistics, Giles fails to acknowledge the work’s applicability to his own life.

Tibba Fox

Tibba Fox, Giles’s daughter. An attractive, clever teenager with searching green eyes, Tibba leads two lives: At home, she assumes adult responsibilities by managing the house and caring for her blind father; at school, she is a popular but elusive coquette. Her favorite authors are Harold Pinter and Virginia Woolf, but she reads to Giles every evening from Sir Walter Scott and Anthony Trollope. To her, time is divided into b.c.e., before Mary’s death, and c.e., All Desolation. Giles remarries when Tibba is thirteen years old. Carol, his second wife, is perceived by Tibba as a rival. Tibba puts a curse on her stepmother, asking God to kill her; within twenty-four hours, Carol is run over by a taxicab. Tibba is both shocked and pleased by this apparent power, but she never attempts to exercise it again.

Mary Hargreaves Fox

Mary Hargreaves Fox, Giles’s late first wife and Tibba’s mother. Already deceased when the novel opens, Mary is remembered by Tibba as having hazel eyes, an oval face, and Vidal Sassoon hair. Her relationship with Giles is based primarily on physical...

(The entire section is 739 words.)