The character of Gilbert experiences a lot throughout the novel and the vast majority influences him in ways which become more present as the novel progresses. A key influence on Gilbert is the discrimination present throughout the novel as it moulds his views on certain topics and in some cases directs his behaviour such as how his inability to find a job in chapter thirty causes him to almost “believe that there was indeed something wrong with [him].”
The novel it is achronological, as it jumps between the ‘Before’ and ‘1948’ sections with ‘Before’ spanning a vast range of time from Queenie’s childhood to just months before Hortense arrives in England. Across the two time frames we have four narrators: Queenie, Hortense, Gilbert and Bernard, however it could be argued that we have seven narrators as all but Bernard undergo changes to their strong set of ideas, assumptions and prejudices due to the events throughout the novel. Hortense portrays a clear change in her narration and description of Gilbert as when they first meet she vires him as an uncouth man yet in chapter fifty-nine she refers to him as “a man of class, a man of character, a man of intelligence”, the complete opposite of her earlier descriptions. Levy has written the novel with four different narrators with different styles to give use rounded views of each character and so that we are able to determine which character gives the most reliable account of events.
His relationships, especially with the women in the novel, shape Gilbert into the character we see later on. He is protective of them and wishes to shield them from the problems of society, racism being a big problem. We can see that his relationships change Gilbert as in Chapter eleven when he had first joined the RAF he speaks of women in terms of their appearance “curvaceous bosom, a rounded hip, a shapely leg” whereas after he meets Queenie and even more so Hortense, he thinks of their emotions.
From the moment he meets Queenie his character changes; she introduces him to kindness amongst a society filled with discrimination. Even when he has only known her for a day, Gilbert is compelled to protect Queenie from the dangers he knows of. “For the sake of Queenie” is the first thought that enters Gilbert’s mind in chapter sixteen when there is a possible encounter with racism; he does not think of himself, he only wants to protect the woman he has known for a mere number of hours from a danger she is unaware of. He is more concerned for her, who is not under possible attack than himself. It can be surmised that Gilbert has an innate desire to protect the women in his life regardless of how long they have been in his life. After Arthur’s death, which Gilbert feels partly to blame for, when Gilbert returns to his RAF duties he wants to make sure that she was doing well. He wrote…