Billy Liar
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"Billy Liar" Characters Analysis

By Keith Waterhouse

fiction | 186 pages | Published in 1963

ISBN_13:9780241973646
ISBN_10:0241973643

Estimated read time: 13 min read

List of Characters:

CharacterRole
Billy FisherProtagonist
LizLove interest
Arthur FisherFather of Billy
Barbara FisherMother of Billy
Florence BoothroydEmployer and friend
RitaCoworker and confidante
Geoffrey FisherBrother of Billy
ShadrackImaginary friend
Mr. DuxburyEmployer at funeral parlor
Mrs. CrabtreeNeighbor and antagonist

Role Identification:

Billy Fisher: Billy Fisher serves as the protagonist of the novel "Billy Liar." He is a young man who dreams of escaping his ordinary life in a small town and becoming a successful writer. The story revolves around Billy's struggle to balance his daydreams with the realities of his mundane existence.

Liz: Liz is Billy's love interest. She provides a glimpse of the potential happiness and fulfillment Billy could find if he were to leave his current circumstances behind and pursue a different path.

Arthur Fisher: Arthur Fisher is Billy's father. He represents the traditional working-class values and expectations that Billy finds stifling. Arthur's disapproval of Billy's dreams and ambitions adds to the conflict between father and son.

Barbara Fisher: Barbara Fisher is Billy's mother. She often becomes caught up in the chaos caused by Billy's elaborate lies and fantasies. Barbara serves as a source of frustration and concern for Billy as he tries to navigate his complicated web of deception.

Florence Boothroyd: Florence Boothroyd is Billy's employer and friend. She sees potential in Billy and encourages his writing aspirations. Florence becomes a mentor-like figure for Billy and supports him in his pursuit of a more fulfilling life.

Rita: Rita is a coworker and confidante of Billy. She becomes a sympathetic ear and sounding board for Billy's frustrations and dreams. Rita's friendship offers a sense of companionship and understanding that Billy often lacks elsewhere.

Geoffrey Fisher: Geoffrey Fisher is Billy's brother. He serves as a contrast to Billy, having settled into a stable and conventional life. Geoffrey's choices highlight the alternative paths available to Billy and the consequences of different life choices.

Shadrack: Shadrack is Billy's imaginary friend. He represents the fantastical and escapist tendencies within Billy's mind. Shadrack serves as a voice of encouragement and escapism for Billy as he grapples with the realities of his life.

Mr. Duxbury: Mr. Duxbury is Billy's employer at the funeral parlor. He is a stern and authoritarian figure who embodies the constraints of Billy's working-class surroundings. Mr. Duxbury's presence further illustrates the limitations and frustrations that Billy faces within his ordinary life.

Mrs. Crabtree: Mrs. Crabtree is a neighbor and antagonist of Billy. She often catches Billy in his elaborate lies and seeks to expose his deceit. Mrs. Crabtree becomes a source of conflict for Billy and adds to the challenges he faces in maintaining his fantasies.

Character Descriptions:

Billy Fisher: Billy Fisher is a young man in his early twenties with unkempt hair and a perpetual sense of restlessness. He often appears disheveled and has a habit of daydreaming while neglecting his responsibilities. Billy's appearance reflects his desire for a more exciting and unconventional life.

Liz: Liz is an attractive young woman with a cheerful demeanor and a sense of adventure. She has a natural charm that draws Billy to her and represents the freedom and happiness he yearns for.

Arthur Fisher: Arthur Fisher is a middle-aged man with a stern expression and a conservative appearance. He works as a railway worker and embodies the values of hard work and conformity. Arthur's appearance reflects his disapproval of Billy's dreams and the clash between generations.

Barbara Fisher: Barbara Fisher is a weary-looking woman with a perpetually concerned expression. She dresses modestly and often appears anxious or exasperated. Barbara's appearance reflects the toll that Billy's behavior takes on her and the strained relationship between mother and son.

Florence Boothroyd: Florence Boothroyd is an elegant and sophisticated woman in her forties. She dresses fashionably and carries an air of confidence. Florence's appearance embodies her status as a successful businesswoman and contrasts with the mundanity of Billy's world.

Rita: Rita is a young woman with a friendly and approachable demeanor. She dresses modestly and appears reliable and trustworthy. Rita's appearance reflects her role as a supportive friend to Billy and contrasts with the more flamboyant characters in the story.

Geoffrey Fisher: Geoffrey Fisher is a middle-aged man who dresses conservatively and appears settled and content. He gives off an aura of stability and reliability. Geoffrey's appearance highlights the alternative path that Billy could have taken and emphasizes the differences between the two brothers.

Shadrack: Shadrack is an imaginary character, and therefore does not have a physical appearance. However, he exists within Billy's mind as a reflection of his desires and aspirations.

Mr. Duxbury: Mr. Duxbury is an older man who dresses formally and carries an authoritative presence. He often seems stern and unapproachable. Mr. Duxbury's appearance reflects his position of authority and serves as a symbol of the limitations and restrictions that Billy faces.

Mrs. Crabtree: Mrs. Crabtree is an elderly woman with a serious and skeptical expression. She dresses modestly and often appears disapproving of Billy's behavior. Mrs. Crabtree's appearance reflects her role as a figure of authority and conflict in Billy's life.

Character Traits:

Billy Fisher: Billy is imaginative, ambitious, restless, and prone to daydreaming. He is also impulsive, dishonest, and struggling to find his place in the world.

Liz: Liz is adventurous, fun-loving, and supportive. She represents a gateway to a different life for Billy.

Arthur Fisher: Arthur is strict, practical, and traditional. He embodies the working-class values and expectations that Billy rebels against.

Barbara Fisher: Barbara is nurturing, worried, and often overwhelmed by Billy's behavior.

Florence Boothroyd: Florence is successful, confident, and generous. She sees potential in Billy and encourages him to pursue his dreams.

Rita: Rita is empathetic, loyal, and a trustworthy confidante for Billy.

Geoffrey Fisher: Geoffrey is stable, responsible, and content with his conventional life choices.

Shadrack: Shadrack represents escapism, encouragement, and serves as a bridge between Billy's imagination and reality.

Mr. Duxbury: Mr. Duxbury is authoritarian, stern, and represents the limited possibilities within Billy's working-class environment.

Mrs. Crabtree: Mrs. Crabtree is suspicious, judgmental, and serves as an obstacle to Billy's deception.

Character Background:

Billy Fisher:

Billy Fisher is a 19-year-old working-class youth who lives in the fictional town of Stradhoughton. He works as a clerk for a funeral parlor and feels trapped in the monotonous routine of his life. Billy's father, Arthur, expects him to follow in his footsteps as a railway worker, but Billy dreams of becoming a successful writer and escaping the constraints of his small-town existence.

Liz:

Liz is a young woman from a neighboring town who becomes romantically involved with Billy. She represents the excitement and possibilities that exist beyond Stradhoughton. Liz's carefree nature and willingness to challenge the status quo provide Billy with a glimpse of the happiness he could attain if he were to embrace change.

Arthur Fisher:

Arthur Fisher is Billy's father and represents the traditional working-class values prevalent in Stradhoughton. He expects Billy to settle down, take on a steady job, and conform to societal norms. His practicality and disapproval of Billy's dreams create tension within the family.

Barbara Fisher:

Barbara Fisher is Billy's mother, and her primary concern is the well-being of her family. She often finds herself caught in the middle of the conflicts between Billy and Arthur. Barbara is exhausted and frustrated by Billy's elaborate lies and fantasies, but her love for him remains constant.

Florence Boothroyd:

Florence Boothroyd is the owner of the firm where Billy works. She recognizes his potential and encourages his writing aspirations. Florence has a more sophisticated and cosmopolitan background than the other characters, which sets her apart and makes her an influential figure in Billy's life.

Rita:

Rita is a coworker and confidante of Billy. She becomes a reliable friend and source of support as Billy navigates the challenges of his life. Rita understands Billy's dreams and frustrations and offers him companionship and understanding.

Geoffrey Fisher:

Geoffrey Fisher is Billy's older brother, and his life choices serve as a contrast to Billy's aspirations. Geoffrey has settled into a stable and conventional life, which highlights the alternative paths Billy could have chosen.

Shadrack:

Shadrack is an imaginary character created by Billy as an escape from reality. Shadrack represents Billy's desires, aspirations, and serves as an encouraging voice in his mind as he grapples with the constraints of his life.

Mr. Duxbury:

Mr. Duxbury is Billy's employer at the funeral parlor and embodies the limitations of Billy's working-class environment. His sternness and authority add to the difficulties Billy faces in pursuing his dreams.

Mrs. Crabtree:

Mrs. Crabtree is a neighbor of the Fisher family who frequently catches Billy in his lies. She becomes a source of conflict and frustration for Billy as she threatens to expose his elaborate deceptions.

Character Arcs:

Billy Fisher:

Billy's character arc revolves around his struggle to come to terms with his dreams and aspirations while facing the realities of his small-town life. As the story progresses, Billy experiences moments of growth and reflection, realizing that his lies and fantasies cannot sustain him. Ultimately, Billy must confront his fears and make choices that will either lead to personal growth and fulfillment or perpetuate his dissatisfaction.

Liz:

Liz's character arc mirrors Billy's journey to some extent. Initially, she represents the possibility of happiness and escape for Billy. However, as the story unfolds, Liz becomes aware of the extent of Billy's lies and fantasies. Her arc involves grappling with the difficulties of her relationship with Billy and deciding whether she can trust and support him.

Arthur Fisher:

Arthur's character arc is less pronounced than others in the story but is relevant in terms of the generational clash and the tension it creates within the family. As the story progresses, Arthur's portrayal becomes more nuanced, allowing glimpses of understanding and potential reconciliation with Billy.

Barbara Fisher:

Barbara's character arc revolves around her increasing frustration and exhaustion with Billy's behavior. Throughout the story, Barbara often finds herself caught between Billy and Arthur as the conflicts escalate. Her arc involves finding ways to balance her love for Billy with the need to set boundaries and protect her own well-being.

Florence Boothroyd:

Florence's character arc revolves around her role as a mentor and supporter for Billy. While consistently encouraging his aspirations, she also challenges him to take responsibility for his choices and embrace the consequences. Florence's arc represents the dilemma of wanting to help someone grow while also recognizing their need for personal development.

Rita:

Rita's character arc involves the development of her friendship with Billy. As their relationship deepens, Rita becomes increasingly invested in Billy's journey. Her arc includes providing a source of stability for Billy while also facing her own challenges and aspirations.

Relationships:

Billy and Liz:

Billy and Liz's relationship is the central romantic focus of the novel. Liz represents the potential escape and happiness that Billy desires. Their relationship is tested by Billy's lies and fantasies, which create a strain. Their interactions serve to highlight Billy's internal conflict and the choices he must make.

Billy and Arthur:

Billy's relationship with his father, Arthur, is a significant source of tension in the story. Arthur's disapproval of Billy's dreams and his expectation of conformity clash with Billy's desire for something more. Their interactions showcase the clash of generations and the struggle for understanding.

Billy and Barbara:

Billy's relationship with his mother, Barbara, reflects the strain caused by his lies and fantasies. Barbara loves her son but becomes increasingly exhausted and frustrated by his behavior. Their interactions demonstrate the complexity of a parental bond and the challenges of supporting a dreamer.

Billy and Florence:

Florence plays a mentor-like role in Billy's life, encouraging his writing aspirations and recognizing his potential. Their relationship is characterized by mutual respect and support. Florence provides a contrast to the other characters' lack of belief in Billy's dreams.

Billy and Rita:

Rita becomes a confidante and supportive friend to Billy. Their relationship grows stronger as Billy confides in Rita about his dreams, frustrations, and fears. Rita provides a steady presence in Billy's life and offers guidance and understanding.

Billy and Geoffrey:

Billy's relationship with his brother, Geoffrey, shows two contrasting paths. Geoffrey has settled into a stable, conventional life, which serves as a foil to Billy's dreams and aspirations. Their interactions highlight the differences in their choices and the potential outcomes of those choices.

Billy and Shadrack:

Shadrack represents an imaginary friendship and serves as Billy's escape from reality. Their relationship showcases Billy's need for encouragement and his struggle to reconcile his dreams with the constraints of his day-to-day life.

Billy and Mr. Duxbury:

Mr. Duxbury's relationship with Billy is one of authority and restriction. As Billy's employer, Mr. Duxbury represents the limitations of his working-class environment. Their interactions highlight the challenges Billy faces in pursuing his dreams.

Billy and Mrs. Crabtree:

Mrs. Crabtree's relationship with Billy is one of antagonism. She often catches Billy in his lies and seeks to expose his deceit. Mrs. Crabtree acts as a foil and obstacle to Billy's fantasies, adding further conflicts to his already complicated life.

Overall, "Billy Liar" delves into the complexities of familial relationships, romantic aspirations, and the struggle to reconcile dreams with the realities of a small-town existence. The diverse cast of characters supports the protagonist on his journey of self-discovery and examines the challenges he faces in pursuing his desire for a more fulfilling life.