57 pages 1 hour read

Sarah Waters


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2002

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Character Analysis

Susan Trinder (Sue Smith)

Sue narrates more than half of the novel, so her perspective—alternately swindler and swindled—dominates. In the first part of the book, her narration has the benefit of hindsight; she tells the story of what has already happened to her, though the reader follows along as events unfold. She is an orphan, at least so she thinks: “I believe I am an orphan. My mother I know is dead. But I never saw her, she was nothing to me. I was Mrs. Sucksby’s child, if I was anyone’s” (3). That final statement is, of course, fortuitous in that she is Mrs. Sucksby’s creation, a fingersmith with a talent for the con, who is also simultaneously sheltered. It is in Mrs. Sucksby’s best interest, financially speaking, to keep Sue from becoming too sharp. By her own admission, Sue has an active imagination and an inability to keep reality separate from fantasy. Her belief that the production of Oliver Twist depicted actual events clues the reader in about her susceptibility, even as she intends to betray Maud to make her fortune.

She laments her childishness going into Gentleman’s scheme, who praises her aptly: “She’s a good girl—which is to say, a bad girl, not too nice about the fine points of the law” (26).