Lois Farquar, the protagonist of The Last September, is a young Anglo-Irish woman growing up in Ireland in the early twentieth century. She lives with her aunt and uncle in a Big House in Munster, and, up until the events in the novel occur, has lived the typical life of an adolescent Anglo-Irish girl. The events in The Last September mark the beginning of an end to a lifestyle Lois and the Anglo-Irish citizens of Ireland enjoyed.
Lois interests me for a variety of reasons. She’s a character who fits in well with the world around her, but is also distant from it, and is very aware of the world changing around her.
Lois lives a dull life with her Aunt Myra and Uncle Richard – also known as Lady Naylor and Sir Richard – in Munster. The arrival of Hugh and Francie Montmorency, her aunt and uncle’s old friends, at the beginning of the novel, and Lois’ excitement at their coming, shows that there are not many exciting events in Lois’ life. She lives in a “Big House”, a typical Anglo-Irish house of that time – early 1900s – and, up until the events in the novel occur, has lived the typical life of an adolescent Anglo-Irish girl. She knows the fellow Anglo-Irish families in the surrounding countryside, she attended school and writes to her schoolmates, and she socialises pleasantly with the rest of her social class, as well as the British soldiers in the area. One in particular catches her eye, and her interest is returned; a potential relationship is formed between Lois and a British officer, Gerald Lesworth.
I would probably not have much interest in Lois if all she did over the course of the novel was wonder if she should marry Gerald. However, she is keenly aware of the changing political landscape around her, and it is this, as well as social expectations, that are influencing her decisions. Her elder relatives do not have the same awareness, and have a frustrating habit of sticking their heads in the sand, refusing to see that their way of life in Ireland is ending. It is Lois and her cousin, Lawrence, that bring life to this Anglo-Irish novel, despite the fact that the lifestyles the characters lead will soon die out. Lois and Lawrence have experiences, opinions and ambitions that their elder relatives do not, and they leave the country before the end of the novel, before [spoiler] the Big House that was their home is burned down.
Another thing that interests me about Lois is the binaries she’s caught between, and the similarities between her and the author, Bowen, as a result. She’s not a child, but not an adult; doesn’t know if she wants to marry Gerald, or go to art school; is, as Bowen put it later in life, “Too Irish for the English, too English for the Irish”. Bowen wrote knowing the world she knew was changing. This is reflected in Lois; the binaries she’s in worry her frequently, and the political landscape at the time is part of all her worries.