Latimer’s older brother Alfred is his opposite. Latimer describes him as ”a handsome, self-confident man of 6 and 20 a thorough contrast to my fragile, nervous, ineffectual self.” Alfred is their father’s favorite, as he embodies all that the father desires in a son. When Latimer is introduced to Bertha as a probable future wife to Alfred, his natural dislike of his brother turns to envious hatred. Right before he is to be married to Bertha, Alfred dies from falling off a horse, leaving Latimer free to marry Bertha.
Mrs. Archer is the new servant Bertha hires, a woman whose arrival Latimer dreads: “I had a vague dread that I should find her mixed up with the dreary drama of my life that some new sickening vision would reveal her to me as an evil genius.” Latimer describes her as “a tall, wiry, dark-eyed woman, this Mrs. Archer, with a face handsome enough to give her coarse, hard nature the odious finish of bold, self-confident coquetry.” Latimer remains wary of Mrs. Archer, as he perceives that she and Bertha share some dark secret from him. On the night of Mrs. Archer’s death, Latimer allows Charles Meunier to perform a blood transfusion on her dead body. As a result, the body comes to life and points an accusatory finger at Bertha. In this brief moment of life after death, Mrs. Archer reveals that Bertha had hired her to concoct a poison to kill Latimer. This revelation made, the body once again assumes the posture of death.
Latimer’s father is cold, distant and disapproving of his sickly, unmotivated child. He hires a tutor to school the young Latimer in all of the subjects which he most dreads, and in which he is least capable. After Latimer’s older brother Alfred, the favorite, dies, his father becomes more endeared to Latimer, who becomes sympathetic to his father, and is careful to please him as much as possible, as well as to care for him in his sorrow and old age.
Bertha is first introduced to Latimer as his brother’s future fiancee. She is described as “no more than twenty, a tall, slim, willowy figure, with luxuriant blond hair.” Because she is the only person whose mystery Latimer’s powers of “double consciousness” cannot penetrate, Latimer becomes fixated on her as an object of his devotion. But after Arnold’s death and their subsequent marriage, Bertha becomes for Latimer an object of hatred. Once Bertha’s inner thoughts have been revealed to him, and she is no longer a mystery, Latimer finds that she is evil, heartless and shallow. Bertha, for her part, hates Latimer because of his unwillingness to maintain his former devotion to her. As their marriage develops into one of mutual hatred, Bertha seeks the company of other men. Years into their marriage, Bertha hires a new servant, Mrs. Archer, to poison Latimer. After Mrs. Archer dies, and is then momentarily brought back to life, she points an accusatory finger at Bertha, revealing Bertha’s evil plan. Latimer and Bertha then separate for life.
Latimer is the main character and narrator of “The Lifted Veil.” He is a sickly child and a grave disappointment to his father. When Latimer is introduced to his older brother’s soon-to-be fiancee, Bertha, he becomes hopelessly infatuated with her. At the same time, Latimer discovers that he has the mysterious power to foresee certain events before they happen. This supernatural power, which Latimer refers to as “double-consciousness,” also gives him the ability to read the thoughts of those around him. After Arnold, his older brother, falls off a horse and dies, Latimer is left to marry Bertha. But already Latimer has seen a future incident which indicates that he and Bertha will come to despise each other. After their marriage, Latimer’s powers of “double-consciousness” make the development of this mutual hatred between husband and wife that much more horrible to him. When it is revealed to Latimer that Bertha had been scheming to poison him, the two of them separate for life. At the story’s end, Latimer is waiting for the dreaded moment of his own death, a moment he had perceived in exact detail a month earlier.
In the first half of “The Lifted Veil,” Charles Meunier is the young Latimer’s only childhood friend. Latimer describes the young Meunier as almost his opposite, one “whose intellectual tendencies were the very reverse of’ his own. Of poor origins, Meunier pursues medical studies “for which he had a special genius.” In the second half of the story, Meunier, now a renowned physician, comes to visit Latimer, whom he hasn’t seen in years. One night of his visit, Mrs. Archer, the servant, is on her deathbed, and Meunier asks Latimer permission to perform an experiment on her corpse, the minute she is dead. He subsequently performs a blood transfusion from his own body into that of the dead servant. She instantly comes to life, opens her eyes, and points an accusatory finger at Latimer’s wife, revealing a deadly secret which uncovers evil intentions. At the end of the story, it is suggested that this incident jolts Meunier into a contemplation of the spiritual, rather than the scientific; upon the corpse’s revelation, ”Meunier looked paralyzed: life for that moment ceased to be a scientific problem for him.”
Ira Mark Milne (Editor), Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, Volume 8, George Eliot, Published by Thomson Gale, 2000.