Kind, generous Arthur possesses a strong sense of loyalty and filial duty and has devoted his life so far to working for his parents’ business in China. However, he now wants to find his own happiness and to start his life anew back in England. He also intends to uncover the truth about the Clennam family’s past and to make reparations for any wrongdoing, despite facing fierce opposition from his domineering mother, Mrs Clennam.
Cold, stern and formidable Mrs Clennam has been paralysed and confined to her room for a dozen years. She has an extreme and fearsome religiosity, and is determined to spend her life in suffering and atonement for previous sins. She is unbending even towards her only child, Arthur. However, she displays an uncharacteristic generosity and warmth towards her young seamstress, Amy Dorrit, thus arousing Arthur’s suspicions.
Jeremiah Flintwinch is the sole male servant in the House of Clennam. He’s worked there for years and knows all the family secrets. He therefore has much more sway over affairs than Mrs Clennam would like him to. He’s the only person who dares to stand up to her, and theirs is a tempestuous relationship. He takes out his frustration and aggression on his poor, timid wife, Affery.
Affery Flintwinch is the only female servant in the Clennam household and has worked there for many years. She is married to Jeremiah Flintwinch, who frequently beats her. Privately, Affery refers to Mrs Clennam and Flintwinch as ‘the clever ones’, as they’re always scheming together. She is terrified of both of them. The only friend and ally she has is Arthur, and she is very fond of him and likes to spoil him.