Caleb Williams
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"Caleb Williams" Characters Analysis

By William Godwin

classics | 448 pages | Published in 2005

ISBN_13: 9781627939065
ISBN_10: 1627939067

Estimated read time: 6 min read

List of Characters

Character NameRole
Caleb WilliamsProtagonist
Ferdinando FalklandAntagonist
Isabella DudleySupporting Character
Mrs. MarwoodSupporting Character
CollinsSupporting Character

Role Identification

In "Caleb Williams," Caleb Williams serves as the protagonist, with Ferdinando Falkland as the primary antagonist. Additional supporting characters include Isabella Dudley, Mrs. Marwood, and Collins.

Character Descriptions

Caleb Williams: Caleb Williams is a young and intelligent man who seeks employment as a secretary for Ferdinando Falkland. He is described as having a slight and unremarkable physical appearance, which contrasts with his strong sense of courage and determination.

Ferdinando Falkland: Ferdinando Falkland is a wealthy and respected member of society. He wields considerable power, both through his wealth and his influence. Falkland is depicted as a man of strong emotions, often prone to fits of rage and possessiveness.

Isabella Dudley: Isabella Dudley is a young woman and the love interest of Caleb Williams. She is depicted as kind-hearted and compassionate, who faces immense pressure due to her relationship with Falkland.

Mrs. Marwood: Mrs. Marwood is Falkland's sister. She is introduced as a cold and manipulative character, always seeking to protect her brother's interests.

Collins: Collins is a servant in Falkland's household. He becomes a key ally to Caleb throughout the story, offering support and guidance.

Character Traits

Caleb Williams: Caleb is determined, curious, and resourceful. He possesses an unwavering sense of justice and an indomitable spirit, which drives him to uncover the truth behind Falkland's dark secrets.

Ferdinando Falkland: Falkland is arrogant, impulsive, and possessive. He is a man of contradictions, exhibiting both benevolence and cruelty. His intense emotions and refusal to be questioned make him a formidable antagonist.

Isabella Dudley: Isabella is compassionate, kind, and loyal. Although she cares deeply for Caleb, she is torn between her love for him and her duty to Falkland.

Mrs. Marwood: Mrs. Marwood is calculating, devious, and manipulative. She will go to great lengths to protect her brother's reputation and wealth.

Collins: Collins is loyal, practical, and supportive. He becomes Caleb's confidant and aids him in navigating the challenges they face together.

Character Background

Caleb Williams: Caleb Williams comes from a humble background, raised by his widowed mother. He is driven by a desire for knowledge and a sense of justice. When he becomes employed as Falkland's secretary, Caleb unwittingly uncovers dark secrets that propel him into a dangerous game of cat and mouse.

Ferdinando Falkland: Falkland is born into wealth and privilege. He is accustomed to having his way and is intolerant of anyone challenging his authority. Falkland appears to be a respected member of society, but his actions reveal a darker side to his character.

Isabella Dudley: Isabella is the daughter of a close friend of Falkland. She is trapped in a tumultuous and complicated relationship with Falkland, torn between her love for Caleb and her obligations to Falkland.

Mrs. Marwood: Mrs. Marwood is the sister of Falkland, and her main concern is protecting her family's reputation and wealth. She is willing to use any means necessary to achieve her goals.

Collins: Collins has been in Falkland's service for many years, witnessing his master's actions and their consequences. He befriends Caleb and supports him as they both seek to uncover the truth about Falkland.

Character Arcs

Caleb Williams: Caleb's character arc revolves around his transformation from an innocent and idealistic young man to a determined and resilient individual. Initially, he idolizes Falkland but soon becomes disillusioned as he discovers the secrets and injustices Falkland has committed. Through his relentless pursuit of the truth, Caleb evolves into a figure of resilience and defiance.

Ferdinando Falkland: Falkland's character arc showcases the destructive consequences of his possessiveness, rage, and desire to maintain control. As Caleb uncovers his secrets, Falkland's actions become increasingly desperate, leading him spiraling into a downward descent of guilt and paranoia.

Isabella Dudley: Isabella's character arc primarily revolves around her struggle to free herself from the clutches of Falkland. As the story progresses, she gains courage and eventually finds the strength to make her own choices, even if they defy societal expectations.

Mrs. Marwood: While Mrs. Marwood does not undergo a significant character arc, her presence and actions have a profound impact on the overall narrative. Her manipulation and deceit propel the story forward, adding further complexity and tension.

Collins: Collins experiences a subtle character arc as he transitions from a loyal servant to a trusted ally for Caleb. He demonstrates courage and resilience, standing by Caleb's side throughout their quest for justice.


Caleb Williams and Ferdinando Falkland: The relationship between Caleb and Falkland is central to the plot. It begins as a mentor-mentee dynamic but quickly devolves into a cat-and-mouse game, with Caleb challenging Falkland's authority and attempting to expose his misdeeds.

Caleb Williams and Isabella Dudley: Caleb and Isabella's relationship represents a forbidden love, tested by the oppressive control Falkland exerts over Isabella. They share a deep connection and mutual support as they strive to overcome the obstacles in their path.

Caleb Williams and Mrs. Marwood: Caleb's relationship with Mrs. Marwood is defined by suspicion and manipulation. She becomes an obstacle in his pursuit of justice, using her position to protect her brother's interests.

Caleb Williams and Collins: Collins serves as Caleb's loyal friend and confidant throughout the story. He provides vital assistance, moral support, and guidance as Caleb uncovers the truth about Falkland.

In conclusion, "Caleb Williams" presents a gripping tale of power, betrayal, and the pursuit of justice. The protagonist's transformation, the antagonist's unraveling, and the intricate relationships between characters make for a compelling and thought-provoking narrative.