The Guernsey Literary

and Potato Peel Pie Society

Character Analysis

Juliet Ashton, Sophie Strachan, Sydney Stark, as well as the inhabitants of Guernsey are all the treasured characters of Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, the authors of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. They created a character that was solely built on her experiences. A thirty-two year old with a passion for literature, Juliet Ashton was orphaned at twelve and grew up recklessly, running away from her great-uncle's home, before meeting Sophie Strachan (née Stark). Sophie kept her grounded and well-behaved as they became best friends. Juliet's impulsive behavior and certain stubbornness is a trait that followed her from the death of her parents, to running away, to planning to run away, then being deterred by the kindness of a friend. "Needless to say, I never ran away. I stayed- with Sophie as my new friend." (Shaffer 120)

Romance was never the point of her career, but through her collection of books and her admirable writing column during World War II, many bonds of friendship were made. Before her makeover in late January 1946, she described herself as "a listless, bedraggled, thirty-two-year-old," (Shaffer 17). Although she depicted herself as dull, she appealed to Markham V. Reynolds Jr. (her ex-boyfriend) and all of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society members. She has a witty persona, a humor which truly individualized her as a columnist and drew her fans towards her. Her benevolence is evident in the way she presents herself like a mother to children, like the way she sent the blocks of wood to Eli, Eben Ramsey's grandson, "Your box for Eli came Friday- what a kindness of you," (121). She also appealed to Kit enough to adopt her, even though Kit "did not take to [her] one bit," (160) at their primary encounter.

Development

During the novel, the reader learns the plot through individual letters, which explain the personal experiences and true thoughts of each character. The main literary elements that are heavily reinforced by each character's accounts are characterization and setting. Character descriptions play a large but surreptitious part in Juliet Ashton's life, and the irony may not be conspicuous until the end, but still exists.


The most blatant contrast in the entirety of the novel is the disparity between Juliet's love interests, Markham V. Reynolds and Dawsey Adams. It becomes obvious at the resolution of the plot that they are complete opposites, and that Juliet's development is not only in her choice of men, but in her understanding of love. For instance, when she first sets eyes on Markham Reynolds, she depicts him as: "Tan, with blazing blue eyes. Ravishing leather shoes, blinding white handkerchief in breast pocket," (Shaffer 40). However, when she is in detailed correspondence with Dawsey Adams, she only learns about him in general, nothing about appearance or wealth, although she does have the knowledge that he is a farmer. The difference is that Juliet was dazed by how handsome Mark was, but, like she said to Sophie, she didn't know whether or not it was love, "I feel addled around Mark, which might be love but might not," (86). After five months of letters sent between them, she met Dawsey, whom she described as, "dark and wiry, and his face has a quiet, watchful look about it- until he smiles," (161). Besides a few extra notes about his slightly graying hair and the smile lines around his eyes, he doesn't need any description, because she already knows him so well. His personality is far more striking to her than any appearance or aura he could emit. Also, the book is filled with little hints of foreshadowing towards Juliet and Dawsey's love. Mark sent Juliet flowers thrice unsuccessfully whereas Dawsey sent her white lilacs (her favorite flower) without the knowledge that she loved them, "How did you know that I like white lilacs above all flowers?" (54).


The second literary element that portrays the development of various characters is setting. The setting of the novel is particularly influential because of Juliet Ashton's travels and the location of all of the many Guernsey-goers and citizens. The time span is also a key point in the novel, because of the proximity to the end of WWII. Often, the location of each person is one of the most important details. Not only are Juliet and Sidney's visits to Guernsey paramount in the progress of the novel, but also Amelia and Dawsey's voyages to Remy Giraud's hospice in France. Remy had always wanted to visit, saying that Elizabeth McKenna's stories of Guernsey were exquisite and that "[those] things seemed like Heaven to [her]," (Shaffer 180). Since, Remy met Elizabeth in a concentration camp, during the German Occupation of Guernsey, and children like Eli were being sent away for safety, the time period became essential to the story. On the island, near St. Peter Port and the surrounding farmlands, life is generally peaceful. Juliet often becomes euphoric in her depictions of Guernsey, especially at her first observation of the land. She noted in one of her letters, "I'm going to step into the meadows of wildflowers right outside my door and run to the cliff as fast as I can. Then I'm going to fall down and look at the sky, which is shimmering like a pearl this afternoon, and breathe in the warm scent of grass," (164).

Evaluation

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a definite recommendation from me, because of the depth of the characters and the wide range of the genre. Since the book is realistic fiction but contains themes from romance novels and history, there is an unlimited "market" of potential readers. Another reason that I would praise this book is because of the homely, friendly way the characters behave. Reading their thoughts from letters is similar to being the correspondent, which makes the reader feel included in the lives of the original Guernsey Literary Society and Juliet Ashton. Although Mary Ann Shaffer couldn't see it published, this was her life's work, an incredible creation that would suit an infinite array of people and leave them satisfied.