Grace Melbury, a young Englishwoman whose expensive education sets her apart from her family and neighbors in the village of Little Hintock. She returns to find that she is intended by her father to be the bride of Giles Winterborne, until that young man loses his little fortune. Later, she is courted by a young physician, Edgar Fitzpiers, whom she marries without love at her father’s urging. As she begins to mature, Grace realizes that she has been mistaken in her marriage. When her husband turns to a rich, young widow, Grace is surprised at her lack of feeling until she realizes that as she has outgrown an external view of life she has come for the first time to appreciate her rural neighbors. Although her pride is hurt by her husband’s philandering, she takes joy in discovering what love can be, for she truly falls in love with Giles Winterborne. Only later, as Winterborne lies dying, having sacrificed himself for her, does she really mature as a woman. Some months later, she and her husband become reconciled and prepare to start life anew in another part of England.
Edgar Fitzpiers, a young physician of good family. Although he is an excellent doctor, he also is a vain and shallow young man who wastes his skill and his time in all sorts of romantic studies. Living alone in Little Hintock village, he is attracted to Grace Melbury and marries her, although he feels he is marrying beneath his station. Soon afterward, he drifts into an affair with Felice Charmond, a wealthy widow of the neighborhood. Through this unhappy passion, he loses his wife, his practice, and almost his life. After the scandalous death of his mistress abroad, he realizes his selfishness and courts his wife anew, winning a new start in marriage and in his profession.
George Melbury, a timber merchant. Conscience-stricken because he had stolen a friend’s fiancée years before, he proposes to make amends by marrying his daughter Grace to the...
(The entire section is 837 words.)