Part One introduces the two main protagonists, Ida and Pinkie
who act as vessels for the side of Good vs. Evil/Right vs. Wrong, as
it becomes clear from Part 2 onwards that the novel addresses
metaphysical issues of Good vs. Evil and the influence of the
Roman Catholic Church.
Pinkie- it is ironic that he plays Evil, and chooses Hell over Heaven
'Heaven was a word: hell was something he could trust' when he
maintains all the rules of the book that would mean he would go to
heaven by rigorously avoiding giving in to vices (except for GBH and
murder ofc) 'You could lose vice as easily as you could lose virtue'
Ida- much more comfortable with a hedonistic lifestyle.
She loves life and embraces it fully "Life was sunlight on
brass bedposts, Ruby port, the leap of the heart when
the outsider you have backed passes the post . . . Death
shocked her, life was so important"
Vice 1: Drinking
In Part 1 Pinkie is shown to be drinking
non-alcoholic drinks “ I don’t drink, Fred ”
although it could be symbolic that the glass
is dropped and smashes, foreshadowing of
the breaking of Pinkie's will when he later
gives in and drinks
Vice 2: Sex
Pinkie is appalled at the idea of
sexual contact: 'a prick of sexual
desire disturbed him like a
sickness . . . He felt desire move
again, like nausea in the belly'.
This is partly a result of having
watched his parents' weekly
sexual activities while he was a
child. In order to consummate his
marriage he needs to tell both
Rose and himself that they are
committing a mortal sin because
they were not married in church.
Ida is a key role reversal for gender
for the 1930s, although she describes
herself as a bit free and easy, she
believes that sex is part of human
nature and just a bit of fun. This is
further seen in her relationship with
Phil Corkery, who is essentially just
someone she uses for companionship
and sex, with him acting as her sexy
sidekick (usually a role played by
women to male heroes) "She was
shaken by a Bacchic and bawdy
mood...Corkery blushed, plunged
deeper in his embarrassment"
There is regular evidence of Ida drinking
right from the outset " she was only a little
drunk in a friendly accommodating way ” as
is fitting with her hedonistic ideology, and
this makes her pointedly different from
The two protagonists have different motivations that drive them along their
path of goof or evil, these being tied in closely with their characteristics
Pinkie is not driven by self-confidence - almost the opposite.
He was a bully at school, always trying to prove he was
tougher than another child. He has not changed. He is very
concerned about how people view him and when he believes
neither Colleoni nor the police take him seriously, he
becomes very bitter: "The poison twisted in the Boy's veins.
He had been insulted. He had to show someone he was - a
Ida takes on the role of avenging angel. Following leads from
the newspaper she meets Molly, the girl Hale tried to pick up
on the beach. After their conversation Ida is convinced of foul
play. In addition, the word PHIL comes out of a session with the
Board and Ida believes this refers to an acquaintance, Phil
Corkery and is a supernatural (not religious) sign that she must
act "God doesn't mind...I know the difference between Right
Rose represents a connection between Good and Evil: her good completes Pinkie's evil (different
to Ida who fights him). Rose lives in a grey middle ground between Ida and Pinkie, where good
and evil coexist. She is good enough to believe in Pinkie's love, but weak enough to follow him
onto the evil path he has chosen for himself. She goes to confession, still believing Pinkie loved
her and wanting to be damned.
Rose initially appears to be the opposite of Pinkie - a
good Catholic who says her prayers, attends mass,
confesses and hopes for heaven. She reminds Pinkie
too much of his own background as they are from the
same part of town and Pinkie has ambitions to move
on like Colleoni. However, he reluctantly recognises
that he needs Rose: "He was aware that she belonged
to his life, like a room or a chair: she was something
which completed him . . . What was most evil in him
needed her: it couldn't get along without goodness."
Ida sees the good in Rose and wants to save her from Pinkie, and
Rose is part of Ida's motivation for continuing her quest. But Rose
has convinced herself that Pinkie loves her and wouldn't do her
any harm. She has, through her association with Pinkie, lost some
of her goodness. She is loyal to a murderer. So when in the end
Pinkie achieves his ultimate goal and dies in the fires of Hell. Ida
feels vindicated, she has solved the puzzle and saved Rose but the
experience has changed her - perhaps she has had enough
adventure and excitement.