The character of Christine Barlow in “The Citadel” by Archibald Cronin
Christine's sad love story as she stands by her husband, Dr. Andrew Manson
In a normal love story, if there is such a thing, you would expect a smooth flow from the beginning to the end of the plot.
However, the romance between Andrew Manson and Christine Barlow, the most important characters in Cronin’s book “The Citadel”, does not follow this pattern.
Their first encounter is dominated by a fighting argument on whether one of Christine’s pupils should go home rather than attend classes.
Andrew is adamant that it would be safer for the little child to stay at home and not infect the rest of the children, while Christine argues that the kid would be much happier, and not really represent a health risk to other pupils, if he stayed in the classroom.
Believe it or not, this argument serves, without them even realizing it, as the basis of a strong love relationship to follow.
Attempting a character analysis, Christine is quite different to Manson, in the sense that she is a calmer and more reserved person, while he can easily lose his temper, when his views are challenged, especially when it comes to medical matters.
The organizational side of her character is evident in the fact that she was already aware of Andrew’s arrival in the local community as the new physician to replace Dr. Page.
Andrew was impulsive as usual, just like in the rest of the novel, and didn’t seem to notice the young teacher’s presence, until he actually met her in person.
The way she handled their first meeting shows her determination and authority, as a result of her professionalism as a teacher who is willing to set a perfect example, serve as a role model and a symbol of status to her pupils.
On the other hand, she managed to turn their argument to her advantage and make the young physician admit his stubbornness. In other words, she showed that she was capable of taking the bull by the horns when necessary and appropriate. Although none of them would admit that it was love at first sight, Christine’s straightforward approach was probably one the most important reasons that made the young physician feel attracted to her. Besides, they shared the same age and a similar level of education, so they would be able to communicate with one another better than with anyone else in the village.
Before him entering her life, Christine’s world rotated around her teaching profession. Her father and brother had been killed in the coal mines, and she had no family. This incident stressed the point that her fate followed that of other members in the local miners’ community who risked their lives on a daily basis, in order for them to be able to make a living.
The social gathering at Mrs. Bramwell’s place is another opportunity for Christine to show some more of her qualities, which differentiate her from other women in her social circle.
She excels for her ethics and, as the reader finds out in later chapters, her dedication to her husband, although she stays under his shadow and follows his professional and personal adventures for the rest of the story. She is always there for him to correct and balance his impulsive character and inexperience that results from his young age.
Although Andrew Manson admits to himself that Christine Barlow’s looks do not justify his love feelings, in his eyes she is the most beautiful woman in the world. On the other hand, she loves him with her soul and is ready to eliminate any remaining selfishness inside her.
One highly symbolical event in the flow of the plot, which may not be noticed by the reader, is the wall painting showing a child’s empty chair; the child that she was never meant to have…