A High Wind in Jamaica Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1929

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: Early nineteenth century

Locale: Jamaica, the high seas, and England

Characters DiscussedMr. Bas-Thornton

Mr. High Wind in Jamaica, ABas-Thornton, a plantation owner in Jamaica who sends his children to school in England. On the way, the children, with two of their friends, are taken aboard a pirate ship. Though the children are returned within a few months, their father and mother never realize what the experience has done to them psychologically.

Mrs. Bas-Thornton

Mrs. Bas-Thornton, his wife.


John, oldest of the Bas-Thornton children. He is killed in a fall from a warehouse when his pirate captors, who have taken the children accidentally and treated them well, are selling their booty at a Cuban port.


Emily, John’s sister, an excitable ten-year-old child. She and the pirate captain achieve a strange psychological relationship, though a stormy one. While emotionally upset, Emily slashes one of the pirates’ prisoners, a Dutch sea captain, to death with a knife. Months later, she allows the pirate captain to go to his death by hanging for her own crime, without apparently suffering any qualms of conscience.




Rachael, and


Laura, other children of the Bas-Thorntons.

Margaret Fernandez

Margaret Fernandez, Emily’s friend and fellow captive. Margaret voluntarily goes to the captain’s cabin to live, being an older girl. She knows that Emily actually killed the prisoner but does nothing to change what happens to the innocent man. She appears to suffer from shock and loss of memory when she finally reaches England.

Harry Fernandez

Harry Fernandez, Margaret’s young brother.

Captain Jonsen

Captain Jonsen, the pirate captain. He is not a bad man, so far as the children are concerned. He sees that they are left alone by his men and treated well. He did not intend to keep the children and gives them up voluntarily to a passing ship. Later, he is condemned to hang for the murder Emily committed.

Captain James Marpole

Captain James Marpole, from whose raided ship pirates remove the children. Thinking the children killed, he sails away, leaving them aboard the pirate ship.

BibliographyHenighan, T. J. “Nature and Convention in A High Wind in Jamaica.” Critique 9, no. 1 (1967): 5-18. One of the few literary discussions of the novel. Relevant and useful.Hughes, Penelope. Richard Hughes: Author, Father. Gloucester, N.H.: Alan Sutton, 1984. Memories of her father, quoting extensively from letters and anecdotes. Includes photos and some of Hughes’s drawings.Poole, Richard. Richard Hughes: Novelist. Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan, Wales: Poetry Wales Press, 1986. A full-length study of Hughes as novelist. Includes sections on biography, Hughes’s novels (including a chapter on A High Wind in Jamaica), and his theoretical thinking. Poole concentrates on Hughes’s narrative voice and stance. A full bibliography of Hughes’s own writing and an index are included.Savage, D. S. “Richard Hughes, Solipsist.” Sewanee Review 94, no. 4 (Fall, 1986): 602-613. Substantial essay. Discusses the painful awareness Hughes had of the isolation of the ego and the illusory nature of human experience, with the consequent emptiness of accepted moral standards.Thomas, Peter. Richard Hughes. Cardiff, Wales: University of Wales Press, 1973. Discusses the ways in which the novels have explored the areas where instinct and need become rationalized into principle. Emphasizes Hughes’s ability to go against accepted opinion and fashion–and often to invert them. Index included.
Categories: Characters