Between the Acts | Study Guide

Virginia Woolf

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Between the Acts | Character Analysis


Mr. Bart Oliver

Mr. Bart Oliver enjoys reading about history. He likes to discuss it with others as well. His home called Pointz Hall is the setting for the annual pageant. The Oliver family has lived there for more than 100 years. Bart's sister Lucy is widowed and lives with him. Mr. Oliver's best friend is his Afghan hound named Sohrab. Not a lot changes for Bart over the course of the novel. He maintains his steady and solid patriarchal presence in the village.

Mrs. Isa Oliver

Isa dreams about Mr. Rupert Haines who is a handsome and married farmer in the village. She imputes a mysterious quality to his reserved and shy disposition. She is dissatisfied with her own husband because he is away for work much of the time and expects her to tolerate his hostility and lack of communication. Isa finds a friend in the visitor William Dodge and experiences relief from her loneliness in his company during the pageant.

Mrs. Lucy Swithin

Lucy reads a book called Outline of History both at the beginning and end of the novel. She vividly recalls scenes from the past and is often distracted by her own thoughts. She wears a cross on her neck and has a strong faith in things unseen which makes her seem naive at times. Her brother Bart chides her for her lack of logic, but she doesn't cave to his demands. She maintains an optimistic spirit even while surrounded by villagers who disapprove of the pageant's storyline and the chaos that ensues onstage.

Mr. Giles Oliver

Giles understands the gravity of the political situation that England faces at the dawn of World War II (1939–45). He is a successful stockbroker who spends most of his time away from the tiny village working in the bustling city of London. He halfheartedly returns for the annual pageant and greets the visitors out of a sense of duty rather than a desire to interact with them. His estrangement from his family is palpable. He distracts himself from his boredom by chasing after the flamboyant guest Mrs. Manresa. Giles confesses at the end of the pageant that he feels deeply unhappy with his life.

Mrs. Manresa

Mrs. Manresa wears makeup and dons sparkling jewels. The rumor is that her husband unearthed them and gave them to her as gifts. Her arrival at Pointz Hall is accidental. She and her friend are merely passing through, and they wind up at the Hall looking for a place to have a picnic. She quickly charms old Bart Oliver. He invites her to stay for the pageant and meet all of the villagers. She befriends them and soon feels as if she has taken the center stage by commanding their admiration and attention.

Mr. William Dodge

William Dodge arrives at Pointz Hall with Mrs. Manresa. They are there to ask for permission to enjoy a picnic in the yard. Mrs. Manresa describes William Dodge as an artist. He resists that description and corrects her by identifying himself as an office clerk. He speaks softly and seems frightened when he meets the haughty Giles Oliver. It isn't long before he strikes up a friendship with Isa Oliver and Lucy Swithin. Both women feel that they can confide in him, and he is comforted in their presence.

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