Creating believable and human characters is a difficult task for many authors to accomplish successfully. In this aspect, Byatt succeeds tremendously: she creates so many amazing characters, with flaws and virtues of their own that rise off of the page due to their many faceted natures, and are given real life and true form. Conversely, the less important characters are colorless and dull, fading from our memories almost as soon as we are done with them. However, the relationships of the characters in the novel are what really and truly bring the novel to life. They are what lend credibility to the whole of the story and make us want to read the rest of Ash’s and LaMotte’s works, even when we know they do not really exist.
I will be doing a traditional presentation on the nature of these relationships, and discussing the similarity and duality of the characters in those relationships, present in the novel. I will argue in my presentation that Maud and Roland’s relationship is a mirror of that of Christabel LaMotte’s and Randolph Ash’s, and the characters are cleverly created by Byatt to reflect similar personality traits and characteristics in one another.
The females, LaMotte and Maud both display a deep love of freedom, of autonomy and an unrestrained life. They have great difficulty imagining successful lives while being caught up in relationships and ‘love’ (which Maud refers to more than once with disdain.) Even within LaMotte’s writing, specifically in the segment of The Fairy Melusine, we are introduced to a female character of extreme power who is only content when he owns the knight “Body [and] soul” (298).
The male halves of these relationships, Ash and Roland, display similar mannerisms in that they are both awkward when dealing with their female compatriots. They often have difficulty expressing themselves vocally, particularly when discussing sensitive subjects, and while each of the two faces their own problems with their ‘significant other,’ (Val for Roland and Ellen for Ash,) they each choose to run away in a sense, to find their relief and make room for their new relationship.
I will also demonstrate the ways in which Ellen Ash and Val display similar traits, each of them coming to terms with the ‘other woman’ in their respective relationships and the way in which they grow as people when they do begin to realize the truth about their partners. Ellen Ash in particular, shows extraordinary strength of character when she realizes her husband’s deceitfulness, though she never reveals to him the amount she knows or the pain she feels. She resembles Val in that they both dislike conflict, though Val is a person who draws into herself in anger, whereas Ellen chooses to avoid and ignore the topic of disagreement as much as is humanly possible for her (as is seen by her reluctance to bring up Christabel’s letter to her dying husband.)
- Independence is very important to the strong female characters, Christabel and Maud. What does it mean to them and how does it affect their lives/relationships?
- Are there any other characters that you feel can be reflections of one another? Why/how so?