In the novel Ruby in the Smoke, Phillip Pullman has created sleazy, nasty villains and wholesome, trustworthy, kind-hearted heroes and heroines. This character study looks at the behaviour of these important heroes and heroines in vital events in the novel. It also includes details about their appearance, personality and lifestyles.
1. Sally Lockhart
Set in 1872, the Ruby in the Smoke involves sixteen year old Sally Lockhart. Sally is uncommonly pretty at the time; the quotation at the start of Chapter 1 shows us this:
‘She was slender and pale, and dressed in mourning, with a black bonnet under which she tucked in a straying twist of blonde hair that the wind had teased loose. She had unusually dark brown eyes for one so fair.’
Sally Lockhart is a serious middle-class orphan whose late ‘father’ taught her a variety of useful things; accounting, Hindustani, marksmanship, finance and shooting:
‘As a result, her knowledge of English literature, French, History, Art and Music was non-existent.’
Sally’s lack of insight in these quarters caused trouble with her guardian Mrs Rees and so her stay there ended.
Sally Lockhart shows sensitivity throughout the novel:
‘What are you scowling for?’ he said at one point
… ‘I wasn’t scowling,’ she said, sounding petulant and childish’
Sally’s sensitiveness also links in with her willingness to let Frederick Garland take charge, this quotation helps us visualise this:
‘She was in danger …, and was glad of his company.’
This shows her lack of decisiveness and most of the novel portrays Sally in this fashion. Sally often seems to feel vulnerable in the novel; this quotation shows us this:
‘Sally nearly quailed … and took a step backwards in fright’
In the balance of the last three quotations Sally Lockhart can be seen as a weak, powerless and indecisive heroine but Sally’s part in the novel has much more to it.
Sally proves to be resourceful to the Garlands:
‘Wouldn’t it be possible to tell a story in pictures?’
Sally’s thoughts bring in plenty of money and solidify her role as a strong business woman. During these parts or chapters in the novel, Sally gains significant authority, determination and control. Sally Lockhart shows fearlessness and determination at the end of the novel to defeat her enemy Mrs Holland:
‘The old woman plunged. She fell without a cry … Mrs Holland was dead.’
This victory symbolises her courage and quick-witted thinking she showed to react to Mrs Holland’s actions and words. To summarise, Sally Lockhart is young, sensitive, and, at times, willing to let Frederick Garland take charge, however she is also a resourceful, fearless, determined, and an independent heroine.
2. Frederick Garland
Another one of the important characters is Frederick Garland, a photographer with imagination. The quotation tells us about Frederick’s appearance:
‘He looked an amiable young man.’
Frederick is caught up in Sally’s mystery, he proves to be trustworthy, helpful and decisive through out Pullman’s novel. Criticisms of Frederick’s character involve his poor organisation and planning. The following quotation shows us this:
‘… Frederick Garland!” she stormed. “Those bills are have been waiting since Easter,” ‘
Frederick’s organisation has cost him plenty of money through out the novel; he should show slightly elevated interest on his personal gain. Frederick’s poor planning skill also links in with his dreadful business abilities; these weaknesses have affected many situations within Pullman’s novel.
Frederick’s character possesses lots of effective strengths in this novel. One of them is his braveness as shown by the quotation:
‘But he’s brave though.’
This quality has come to Frederick’s rescue plenty of times as well as this his braveness has also offered sufficient help to other characters (particularly Sally, Jim and Adelaide). Due to these acts, Frederick is known as a trustworthy character. In an earlier chapter, Frederick provided help to Sally. This short passage notifies this:
‘ “In the tent,” he said’
Throughout the Ruby in the Smoke, Frederick has been helpful and kind. This point also links in with his ability to think and to stay calm even when under pressure. However, his more brilliant qualities are shown towards the end of the novel when he is portrayed as a ‘life saver’. This is proved by this quotation showing Mr Berry’s surprise at Frederick’s determination:
‘ “How?” said Mr Berry. …. “I thought I sorted you out.” ‘
During this chapter, Frederick showed his selfless abilities to save the lives of Jim and Adelaide. To conclude Frederick Garland is a helpful, brave, decisive and a trustworthy character.
3. Mrs Holland
The villain of Pullman’s novel is the mean and manipulative Mrs Holland. Her appearance is described by this quotation:
‘She was a wizened old woman with sunken cheeks, pinched lips, and glittering eyes.’
It is obvious from the earlier chapter that Mrs Holland possesses villainous qualities. One of them is her cruel and cunning thinking:
‘So I think she’d better have an accident… One look at the paper tomorrow and you’ll do whatever I want.’
This shows that Mrs Holland has no conscience to threaten and blackmail, she is only interested in her personal gain. However, Mrs Holland is dexterous at her trade, she proves that she is manipulative. We can also sense that Mrs Holland is disliked by others:
‘ “You spider. You calculating old bitch.” ‘
Mrs Holland has earned herself plenty of enemies. In contrast to the selfless and caring heroes, she proves to be greedy and unkind to others throughout the novel. Heartless is an excellent description Mrs Holland’s character, this is proved by the following quotation:
‘It’s the girl … I’ll have her and I’ll tear her open, I will … and I’ll have her life.’
Mrs Holland is cold hearted, she wishes evil to others and she makes it clear that nothing will stop her from achieving her ambitions. Particularly towards the latter stages Mrs Holland overreacts:
‘She thrust Sally aside and scrambled up on to the parapet. She tottered wildly …’
Mrs Holland is unable to remain calm. However, her knowledge of her surroundings was excellent:
‘She will find me and drag me out … She knows everythink. Everythink and everyone.’
‘ “Sorry, ma’am,” … feeling ashamed of himself and not knowing why.’
Mrs Holland shows her authority over others. She has the ability to frighten people and make them work for her in a high standard. In a nutshell, Mrs Holland is a mean, heartless, greedy villain with authority and planning abilities.
4. Jim Taylor
Jim Taylor, the cheap office boy, emerges as one of the principal heroes to help take up Sally’s quest. Jim’s looks is visualised by this description:
‘… His jacket was torn in three places, his collar had come adrift from the shirt, and his hair looked as if it had been used in an experiment with the powers of electricity.’
Jim shows great affection towards Sally in this novel:
‘It was Jim … he worships you.’
Jim’s like of Sally gets him into this quest and in deep trouble. However, he has showed determination and bravery in these situations. The following quotation shows this:
‘He nearly fainted … and then he lowered his head and charged.’
Jim’s heroic acts in the latter chapters offered help to Frederick and Adelaide in difficult circumstances. He puts others first. Jim also stayed calm and thought freely under pressure. Like Frederick Garland, he shows no interest in personal gain, this links in to the previous points. All through the Ruby in the Smoke, Jim is inquisitive:
‘That’s him … that’s the bloke what killed Selby.’
Jim is a hard questioning thinker; he looks deep into happenings. Jim’s resourcefulness is justified after he found the Ruby. After finding this expensive and enchanting object, Jim showed excellent self control and selflessness not to misuse the Ruby. However, in some parts of the Ruby in the Smoke, Jim is a rowdy:
‘Jim looked up and released a jet of language that might have blistered a battle ship.’
Jim doesn’t always posses ‘gentlemanly’ qualities. Despite this, his heart is dedicated to the ‘good’ and helpful. At the start of the climax to the Ruby in the Smoke, Jim is betrayed by Paddy. This quotation shows us this:
‘ “Why?” …
“Money, mate,” was the reply. “Gotta live.”
Despite his anger at Paddy, he kept his concentration and bravery, he somehow survived. In conclusion, Jim Taylor is a likeable, principal hero with bravery, determination and selflessness and at times a rowdy.
5. Trembler (Theophilus Molloy)
Trembler, part of the workforce in the Garland’s household, ends up to be one of the key characters in Sally’s quest. His figure is described:
‘A little wizened man ran anxiously out …’
Helpful is an excellent description of Trembler’s character in the Ruby in the Smoke:
‘ “Could you light the match for me and hold it under the opium?” ‘
Particularly to Sally, Trembler provided excellent help through out the novel (buying her a pistol, helping her re – remember with opium). Trembler (along with Frederick Garland) is a dreadful business man:
‘ “You must press to have your bills paid on time. There is fifty six pounds seven shillings owing to you.” ‘
Before Sally arrived, the Garland household was unable to sort out their finances. This shows that Trembler, Frederick (and Rosa to an extent) are unorganised. Trembler is unpersuasive in the Ruby in the Smoke, this is proved by the ensuing quotation:
‘ “You tell him. I’ve tried but he won’t listen to me.” ‘
Particularly in the earlier stages, Trembler lacks qualities needed in a business field. However, his bravery and loyalty is second to none:
‘The big man knocked him down … the big bloke took a swing at him and flattened him.’
Trembler’s hard work and bravery were a key part of his character. His liking and friendliness towards Adelaide was huge:
‘ “Here’s my lady love,” ‘
Trembler was an easy going character, he had an excellent knowledge of the surroundings. To consummate, Trembler was a helpful, faithful, unorganised and easy going character.
Adelaide plays a key part towards the earlier and the latter stages of this novel. Her appearance is shown in the following quotation;
‘ … a child whose only feature seemed to be, …, a pair of enormous dark eyes.’
Adelaide is weak and uneducated. The following quotations help us visualise this idea:
‘Mr Berry was holding her around the neck with one hand …’
‘ … and so should, by law, be in school.’
Adelaide hasn’t been a brave contributor to Sally’s quest. However, she has been incredibly useful, in an earlier chapter she informed Jim (who in turn acquainted Sally) about Matthew Bedwell. This was of significant use. Adelaide’s main characteristic is that she is scared of Mrs Holland. This quotation shows us this:
‘Only I mustn’t tell Mrs Holland, else she will kill me.’
Adelaide is troubled, she is being abused, bullied and frightened by Mrs Holland. Adelaide, unlike Frederick and Jim, lacks determination. This showed in a key part of the novel:
‘ “Get up here. We got to climb over the wall …” ‘
‘ “I can’t,” … ‘
This undermined characteristic often caused trouble to other characters. Despite this their like and affection towards her is unhurt:
‘ ” … there’s a good girl.’
Adelaide returns this affection with respect, this quotation shows this:
‘ “Morning miss,” ‘
Adelaide is a kind and caring character, she is soft hearted. To recapitulate, Adelaide is weak, bullied and undetermined but however she proves to be courteous and resourceful.
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