Living Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1929

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Neorealism

Time of work: The early twentieth century

Locale: Birmingham and Liverpool, England

Characters DiscussedLily Gates

Lily LivingGates, a woman in her twenties who takes care of three working-class men. Attractive, blonde, and bright, Lily wants desperately to break out of the boredom of her daily domestic chores. A romantic by nature who lost her mother as a child, she makes the most of her banal life. She falls in love with the romantic Bert Jones and elopes with him to Liverpool, where, unable to find his parents, he abandons her on the street. She returns home full of guilt and takes up her domestic duties as before. She resigns herself to living without love in Birmingham.

Joe Gates

Joe Gates, the father of Lily and a worker in the Dupret Foundry, a cynical, manipulative, selfish man in his sixties who tries to avoid work. He lives in the household of Mr. Craigan, his best friend, with his daughter and Mr. Dale. To advance himself at work, he befriends the notorious informer, Mr. Tupe, and spends drunken evenings with him. He threatens to blackmail his closest friend, Mr. Craigan, loses his job, and spends his remaining years in an alcoholic haze.

Mr. Craigan

Mr. Craigan, the head of the household and a master moulder at the foundry. He is in his mid-sixties and is a confirmed bachelor. Although he is not a relative, Lily Gates calls him Grandad. He provides a home for Lily, Joe Gates, and the young Mr. Dale. He uses his control benignly and is terrified of being abandoned by everyone in his old age even though he has put money away for his retirement years. He spends his nonworking hours listening to classical music and rereading the novels of Charles Dickens. Although he is highly respected at work by everyone, he is retired early because of his age.

Jim Dale

Jim Dale, an extremely attractive man in his twenties who works at the foundry. He is in love with Lily but is unable to articulate his feelings, though he regularly accompanies her to the cinema. He moves out when Lily elopes with Bert Jones, because the house would be unbearable without her.

Bert Jones

Bert Jones, a foundry worker in his mid-twenties. He falls in love with Lily Gates and promises to take her to Canada or Australia when he secures the funds from his parents. Impetuously, he elopes with Lily to Liverpool; however, after failing to locate his wandering family, he abandons her on the street and disappears forever.

Mr. Dupret

Mr. Dupret, the owner of the foundry, a man in his mid-sixties. He is an arrogant, stubborn, and contrary man who goes out of his way to punish anyone who tries to usurp his power. He refuses to change any of his costly operating procedures. He is habitually unfaithful to his wife and condescending toward his son, but loyal to the older employees. He dies toward the end of the novel.

Richard Dupret

Richard Dupret, the naïve and awkward son of the owner of the company. Unable to get his father to take him seriously, he desperately wants to assert his authority. He succeeds in firing some of the less productive employees in the company after his father’s death.

Mr. Bridges

Mr. Bridges, the manager of the foundry, in his mid-sixties. A company man, he harshly enforces the disciplinary rules. Neurotically insecure, he indulges in complex power struggles with other bureaucrats and is deeply disturbed by anyone not following the chain of command. He loses his job because he is too old and cannot relinquish his antiquated managerial practices.

Mr. Tarver

Mr. Tarver, an engineer in his thirties. Seeing the waste in the foundry and the injustice done to the employees by the elder Mr. Dupret and Mr. Bridges, he attempts to correct the situation. Ambitious and somewhat manipulative, he succeeds in impressing Richard Dupret with his modernistic views on improving production.

Mr. Tupe

Mr. Tupe, a common laborer at the foundry, in his sixties. An informer, he tells the management everything that the workers are doing. A betrayer of his friends, he loses his job because of his age and spends his retirement begging for drinking money.

BibliographyBassoff, Bruce. Toward Loving: The Poetics of the Novel and the Practice of Henry Green, 1975.Mengham, Rod. The Idiom of the Time: The Writings of Henry Green, 1982.North, Michael. Henry Green and the Writing of his Generation, 1984.Odom, Keith. Henry Green, 1978.Weatherhead, A. Kingsley. A Reading of Henry Green, 1961.
Categories: Characters