The main characters of the short story “Manhood” by John Wain are Mr Willison, Mrs Willison and Rob Willison. For a brief episode, another character is introduced – coach Granger – but he is of little relevance for the development of the plot. In what follows, we will characterise the three members of the Willison family, and we will also focus on the relationship between them.

Mr Willison

Mr Willison is one of the main characters of the story.

Outer characterisation

Part of his outer characterisation is given by Mr Willison himself, who regrets not having the opportunity of becoming athletic:

When I was a boy, it was study, study, study all the time, with the fear of unemployment and insecurity in everybody's mind. I was never even given a bicycle. I never boxed, I never rowed, I never did anything to develop my physique. It was just work, work, work, pass this exam, get that certificate. Well, I did it and now I'm qualified and in a secure job. 

During his cycling trip with his son, he comes across as strong and pushy, yet the muscles of his legs “flattered unpleasantly” , which shows that he strives to be an example for his son even if he is not in the best shape himself. He also depicts himself as being of “average height” and having a flat chest, but also a “wretched physical heritage” which hints at a heart condition.

Inner characterisation

Regarding inner characterisation, Mr Willison is, overall, an overly-ambitious and frustrated man. Being deprived of the possibility of becoming strong and athletic, he transfers all of his wishes on his son.

Initially, he comes across as very pushy and determined: “The first thing any athlete has to learn is to break the fatigue barrier.” 

We then learn that he practices what he preaches, as he also pushes himself to the limits when cycling: “His own legs were tired and his muscles fluttered unpleasantly. In addition...

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