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The French Lieutenant's Woman: Character Profiles

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Aunt Tranter (also referred to as Mrs Tranter)
Aunt Tranter is the kindly aunt of Ernestina and employer of Mary, and lives in Lyme Regis.
Charles Smithson
Charles is one of the central characters and is a Victorian gentleman (from the higher echelons of English society). The novel begins with him apparently happily engaged to Ernestina, but his growing attraction for Sarah puts this forthcoming marriage into doubt.
Dr. Grogan
Dr. Grogan advises Charles to distance himself from Sarah and implies she may be suffering from hysteria. He is extremely judgemental of Charles when he later breaks off his engagement to Ernestina.
Ernestina Freeman
She is the only child of rich upper middle-class parents and is betrothed to Charles at the beginning of the novel. She is characterized as conventional and somewhat spoiled.
French Lieutenant’s Woman (See the entry for Sarah Woodruff)
Mary
Mary is Aunt Tranter’s maid and she goes on to form a relationship with Sam (who is Charles’s manservant).
Mr. Freeman
This is the father of Ernestina and is extremely wealthy. He is, however, regarded as ‘trade’ – rather than a gentleman – as his father was a draper and he has carried on with the family business.
Mrs. Bella Tomkins
Mrs Tomkins becomes the wife of Charles’s uncle. This late marriage and the threat of the couple having children mean that Charles’s prospects are diminished. If they have children, Charles is no longer his uncle’s sole heir.
Mrs. Poulteney
The narrator informs the readers that she could have been in the Gestapo if she had been born in a different time and place. She is Sarah’s employer in Lyme Regis and represents the worst failings of Victorian society: she is hypocritical, opinionated but ignorant, and cruel to those in her power.
Mrs. Talbot
Mrs. Talbot employed Sarah as a governess and is a minor character. Sarah cared for the injured Varguennes (the French lieutenant) at the Talbot home.
Sam Farrow
Sam is the manservant of Charles until he resigns. He goes on to work for Mr Freeman (Ernestina’s father) in his large store on Oxford Street. He also marries Mary and they have two children together.
Sarah Woodruff
This is the eponymous heroine who remains an ambiguous character throughout the novel. The readers’ perceptions of Sarah arise largely from Charles’s understanding and misunderstanding of her. As convention often clouds his perceptions, Sarah’s thoughts are allowed to remain unknowable. She is also independent and is willing to lie to preserve her position.
She is an outcast in Lyme Regis society and this is seen to be both through the small-mindedness of its residents and Sarah’s desire to stand apart from others.
Sir Robert Smithson
This is the uncle of Charles.
Varguennes
Varguennes is the French Lieutenant of the title.




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