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Characters / Fingersmith

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List of characters and tropes from Sarah Waters' novel Fingersmith. For novel-wide tropes, see Fingersmith.

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Main Cast

    Sue Trinder 
London-based thief Susan Trinder—under the pseudonym Susan Smith—enters into the service of Miss Maud Lilly as her maid, intending to help friend of the family Gentleman abscond with Maud's fortune and lock her up in a mental institution.

  • Accomplice by Inaction: Very little is required on Sue's part to convince Maud to marry Gentleman, but Sue remarks at least twice that she had a chance to save Maud by telling her the truth, but did not.
  • Adaptational Dye Job: Sue is described as fair-haired in the novel, but in the TV miniseries, she and Maud both have dark brown hair.
  • Anti-Villain: Sue enters into Maud's life to defraud her of her fortune and make off with a chunk of it, but over the course of the plot becomes increasingly sympathetic to Maud, even telling the doctors who've come to take Maud away to a mental institution that "she don't like eggs".
  • Becoming the Mask: Although Sue is there to steal from Maud, she finds herself falling in love with her.
  • Beautiful Dreamer: Sue sleeps in her own bed all of 1 night before she begins sharing Maud's. She is very aware of Maud's sleeping patterns and habits, and sometimes watches her.
  • Broken Pedestal: With Maud, whom Sue believed to be sweet and innocent, but proved willing to betray Sue for her own ends.
    • Later prove to be somewhat Rebuilt Pedestal, as Maud is willing to let Sue hate her to protect her from the truth, and offers her fortune freely to Sue, who she feels it belongs to.
    • Additionally with Mrs. Sucksby, who Sue treasures like a mother, but who betrays her for Maud's sake. Also becomes Rebuilt Pedestal when Mrs. Sucksby takes the blame for Gentleman's murder so Maud can go free.
  • Caught in the Rain: Subverted. Out on a walk, Maud and Sue seek shelter from the rain under the eaves of the old chapel, but nothing romantic happens—instead, Sue realizes that far from being in love with Gentleman, Maud is terrified of him, but, remembering The Plan, urges her Maud to marry Gentleman anyway.
  • Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story: Sue thinks she's given this to the Lillys to cover her tracks, but the made-up name and address she gives for her previously employer plays into Gentleman's claims of her insanity when he hands her off to an asylum.
  • Counterfeit Cash: Sue and her thief pals often pass around fake money, and Sue remarks several times on seeing false coins in her compatriots' hands (identifiable, she says, due to the yellowy color).
  • Dance of Romance: When Sue finds out Maud doesn't know how to dance, she rolls back the carpet to show Maud a few steps.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Sue seems to suffer this after the asylum staff mock her for her sexuality, revealing that Gentleman and/or Maud told them about it, and perform water torture on her. She becomes nearly catatonic for a while, even questioning if she's wrong in believing she is Sue. Only a visit from Charles, a boy servant from Mr. Lilly's, snaps her out of it.
  • Escape from the Crazy Place: Sue, after Maud and Gentleman have her checked into a mental asylum.
  • Every Proper Lady Should Curtsy: An important part of Sue's training to work for Maud is learning to curtsy like a proper serving girl.
  • False Friend: Sue and Maud appear to form a genuine friendship over the course of Gentleman's plot unfolding, and Sue becomes protective of Maud even before they have sex. However, she never changes course from the plan to rob Maud and lock her up unjustly.
  • The Family That Slays Together: Counting the misfits who live with Mrs. Sucksby as Sue's family, they qualify as this. All of them are thieves and pickpockets, and Mrs. Sucksby advocates for Sue to join Gentleman's plan to defraud Maud Lilly of her inheritance. They even throw Sue a celebratory dinner on her last night home before she goes off to work for Maud, toasting to her success.
  • Garden of Love: One of the key turning points in Maud and Sue's relationship—when they begin to walk about arm-in-arm or holding hands out of true affection—occurs in the garden.
  • Go Among Mad People: Sue is committed to an insane asylum, where the doctors believe that she's Maud Lilly, who went insane and thinks she's Sue. The more she tries to convince them that she really is Sue, the stronger they think her delusion is.
  • Hear Me the Money: Sue claims to be able to tell the difference between real and counterfeit coins based on the sound they make when dropped on a table.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Sue set Maud up to be robbed and committed, but Sue ends up being committed in Maud's place, and the backstory she used to cover her tracks being used as proof of her madness.
  • Hypocrite: Sue came to Briar under false pretenses, with the intention of unjustly locking Maud up in a mental hospital in order to steal her inheritance. But when Maud and Gentleman pull a trick on her and lock Sue up instead she's furious and rails on about betrayal.
  • Insult Backfire: Sue repeatedly refers to Maud as a "pigeon", mocking her for how easily she's fooled by tricksters. Comes back to bite Sue when it turns out she was the pigeon, and has been fooled by Maud and Gentleman.
  • In Love with the Mark: Although Sue willingly joined with Gentleman's plot to defraud Maud, and stands to gain a significant amount of money as well as Maud's jewelry and clothing collections, she finds herself falling in love with the woman she's pretending to serve and plans to rob.
  • Karmic Nod: Given that Sue arrived at Briar in order to defraud Maud and rob her blind, the fact that she ended up a victim of her own plan seems fitting. Once reminded of this back at Lant street, Sue seems to lose some of her anger at Maud.
  • Love Hurts: After Maud turns Sue into the asylum, Sue feels especially betrayed based on her feelings for Maud, which she had thought were requited.
  • Lured into a Trap: Sue and Gentleman load Maud into a carriage to take her off to the mental asylum as per their plan, but once they get there, Maud and Gentleman hand Sue over, claiming she is Miss Lilly, and Maud her aggrieved maid.
  • The Mole: Sue joins with Gentleman to help his plot along by persuading Maud to marry him—in exchange for a cut of his profit.
  • Oh, Crap!: When the trio arrives at the local asylum and Sue is handed off to the nurses, realizing Gentleman and Maud have betrayed her.
  • Opposites Attract: Sue believes she and Maud are this, as she is a street-wise thief, and Maud is an educated, sheltered heiress.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: Subverted—Sue is wholly unconcerned with her mother, who was hanged for murder when Sue was a toddler. Sue barely ever mentions her, and her father doesn't come up at all.
  • Parental Betrayal: After the completion of Gentleman's plot to seize Maud's fortune, Sue finds out that Mrs. Sucksby had been in on it all along, and sent Sue to an asylum to regain her own blood daughter, Maud.
  • Practice Kiss: With Dainty and Maud. The former showed Sue how to kiss, and Sue attempts to take that teaching role on with Maud, but things escalate.
  • Revenge: Sue goes back to London with the goal of enacting revenge on Maud and Gentleman.
  • Satisfied Street Rat: Sue has no shame about her criminal upbringing, and takes pride in her ability to pick locks and con people. She shows no signs of wanting to leave the criminal life, despite her desire for a cut of Maud's fortune, and explicitly states that she thinks thievery is a better way of making a living than having a boring real job.
  • Thicker Than Water: Sue's loyalty to Mrs. Sucksby encourages her to continue with The Plan, in order to share her newfound fortune with her foster mother, and the thought of returning to Mrs. Sucksby helps sustain Sue through the second half of the novel.
  • Wham Line: That bitch knew everything. She was in on it from the start.
  • Why Can't I Hate You?: Sue finds herself unable to despise Maud for what happened, even though she acknowledges she probably should.
    "Hate you?" I exclaimed. "When I have a thousand reasons to and I only—" Only love you.
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks: Lant Street is definitely not the nice part of London.

     Maud Lilly 

The wealthy niece of Mr. Lilly, with whom Gentleman has a job mounting pictures. Maud is the target of Sue and Gentleman, who intend to marry her to Gentleman and then run off with her money after having her put away.

  • Adaptational Dye Job: In the book, both Maud and Sue are described as fair-haired, but in the TV miniseries, both girls are brunettes.
  • A Mistake Is Born: Marianne Lilly is aggrieved at the idea of bringing a child into the world, where it will wind up under the thrall of her viciously controlling father and brother.
  • Antagonistic Offspring: To both Mr. Lilly and Mrs. Sucksby, albeit unknowingly. To the former, she throws frequent temper tantrums as a child, balking against his harsh rules, and later destroys a number of his precious books before running off with Gentleman. To the latter, she espouses total hatred, and makes every effort to escape.
    • Could also apply to Marianne Lilly, whom Maud privately professes to hate.
  • Beneath the Mask: Throughout the first half of the book Maud is seen through Sue's eyes: a delicate, painfully shy young waif whom Sue repeatedly thinks will be exceedingly easy to take advantage of. However, the second part of the book is from Maud's perspective and we learn that not only is she nowhere near as innocent as Sue believes, she is plotting to use Sue to make her escape from her uncle's oppressive control.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Maud seems to be this to Sue, after she allows Sue to be taken into an asylum in her place. However, further explanation from Maud reveals she was plotting this all along, and was never as nice and innocent as she seemed.
  • Birds of a Feather: Maud and Sue are physically quite similar, though very different in personality. This is revealed to be on purpose, as Maud has Sue take her place in a mental asylum.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: After the first part of the book, Maud appears to be this to Sue.
  • Break the Haughty: Maud goes through this as part of her induction into her uncle's house, throwing a series of temper tantrums that lead to increasingly severe punishments until her uncle threatens her with a knife and Maud realizes it's useless to fight back.
  • Broken Bird: After many years with her strict, harsh uncle, Maud comes off as terrifyingly insecure and painfully shy. She's extremely introverted, but begins to respond to Sue's kindness. Upped after the second part of the book, when Maud's true past is revealed, showing in detail how her uncle and his servants beat her into submission and her current emotionless state.
  • Caught in the Rain: Subverted. Out on a walk, Maud and Sue seek shelter from the rain under the eaves of the old chapel, but nothing romantic happens—instead, Sue realizes that far from being in love with Gentleman, Maud is terrified of him, but, remembering The Plan, urges her Maud to marry Gentleman anyway.
  • Clothing Reflects Personality: Maud's gloves can easily be seen as a reflection of her wary, introverted personality, and unwillingness or inability to show her true face, as well as the emotional barrier between her and the rest of the world. Moreover, at the end of the novel, Sue notes that Maud now dresses with a front-lacing corset and her hair down, suggesting perhaps that she is more comfortable with herself, and has become more independent.
  • Conspicuous Gloves: While women wearing gloves during this time was quite common, the author repeatedly calls attention to Maud's gloves beyond simply mentioning a fashion accessory. Maud never seems to take them off, even wearing them to bed.
  • Crying After Sex: After Maud and Sue get it on, Maud sheds a few tears, and has them kissed away, with some sweet words too.
  • Decoy Damsel: Maud seems helpless to escape her fate and terrified of marrying Gentleman, but Sue pushes her into it anyway, only to eventually discover Maud had actually been using Sue all along.
  • Delicate Is Beautiful: Part of Sue's initial attraction to Maud is precisely because she seems so delicate and innocent. Sue even grows protective of Maud when she views Gentleman as overstepping his boundaries in his "courtship" of her soft-hearted mistress.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Maud uses what is presumably some sort of opiate to sleep and calm herself. Her dependence seems to grow throughout the novel, and both Sue and Gentleman jab at her use of "her drops".
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Maud sure seems to get put through the wringer in this book.
  • Emotionless Girl: Maud has a level of detachment to everything around her, and seems to feel only the vaguest hints of emotion until The Plan starts picking up speed. She torments her maid, Agnes, but doesn't seem to derive real pleasure from it, and doesn't appear to have experienced any real sexual desire until Sue comes into her life. Shown to be something of a defensive maneuver to protect her from the emotional trauma of her childhood.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Despite being willing to have Sue committed, Maud is visibly uncomfortable with Gentleman's choice to give Sue's sexuality as proof of her insanity, and suggest Sue made unwelcome advances to Maud.
  • Fake Mark: Maud presents a juicy target for Sue and Gentleman: A wealthy, sheltered girl under the care of a relative, with no living parents, who seems already infatuated with Gentleman. It's only later that Sue finds out Maud was part of the plan all along and she—Sue—was the target.
  • Fake Relationship: Gentleman is feigning love with Maud to convince her to marry him. Turns out Maud is faking too—they agreed to split her fortune if he marries her to get her away from her uncle.
  • Freudian Excuse: Maud's behavior towards her servants could conceivably be justified or explained by her upbringing.
  • First Kiss: Maud with Sue.
  • First Love: Sue is implied to be this for Maud.
  • Friendless Background: Maud spent the first 11 years of her life being cared for by the nurses of a mental hospital, where she was treated like an amusing pet, and the rest of her young adulthood stashed in the house of her uncle, who uses her to help him work and entertain him and his friends by reading obscene literature. She comes off as very awkward around Sue at times due to her inexperience interacting with people her own age.
  • Genre Savvy: After years and years working on her uncle's pet project, Maud is quite familiar with how two women can have sex.
  • High Class Gloves: Maud is never without a pair of gloves, even when she's sleeping.
  • Hot Librarian: Maud is a version of this, since the last scene with her and Sue together has Maud in the library with her writing and Sue overcome with her love and attraction for Maud. It ends with Maud reading Sue her erotic literature, which she says is about her desire for Sue.
  • In Love with the Mark: Maud and Gentleman contrived to bring Sue into the house in order to pass her off as Maud and lock her up in an asylum, allowing Maud to escape her uncle's obsessive control. However, Maud first becomes sexually attracted to Sue and then falls in love with her.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: At the end, when Sue comes at Maud with a knife, in a fit of rage about what happened to her, Maud has plenty of time to explain that Mrs. Sucksby was behind everything, but she refuses, even killing Gentleman to prevent him from telling Sue the truth, because she knows it would hurt Sue to find out, even though she risks Sue hating her forever.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Maud has no friends prior to Sue's arrival, and is kept largely secluded in her uncle's house.
  • Longing Look: Maud gives Sue this after Sue falls asleep chaperoning Maud and Gentleman in the garden, betraying her feelings for Sue.
  • Lust Object: Agnes—Maud fantasizes about her several times.
  • Moral Dilemma: In contrast to Sue, who never seriously considers averting her ploy to ruin Maud, Maud seems to have at least occasional qualms about locking Sue up in an asylum for the rest of her life under false pretenses.
  • Neat Freak: Maud shows shades of this, particularly with her gloves, to the point of throwing a pair into the fire when she's gotten egg on them, staining them yellow in places. Could be a variant of Out, Damned Spot! based on her plan to betray Sue.
  • Non-Idle Rich: After the execution of The Plan, Maud takes up a job writing erotic literature to ensure an independent income for herself.
  • Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality: Maud deploys this not long before her wedding to Gentleman, leading Sue to kiss her to demonstrate what her wedding night might be like, and culminates in them having sex.
  • Parental Betrayal: After the fulfillment of Gentleman's plot, Maud discovers that Mrs. Sucksby, who has been essentially keeping Maud prisoner on Lant street, is her birth mother, and swapped her with Sue as an infant to obtain a chunk of Marianne Lilly's fortune.
  • Prim and Proper Bun: In the TV miniseries, Maud always wears her hair back in a tight, neat bun.
  • The Reveal: When Sue and Gentleman get Maud to the asylum, they hand Sue over instead, claiming she is Miss Lilly, and revealing that Maud had been in cahoots with Gentleman the entire time.
  • Rich Bitch: Maud to Agnes, her maid. She habitually says cruel things to upset Agnes, throws shoes at her for being clumsy, and even sticks her with a pin.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Maud comes off early on as delicate and waifish, unable to do much to defend herself, and cripplingly ignorant about the real world. However, later on it's revealed that Maud's harsh upbringing has led her to become cruel, hitting or throwing things at her maid when she's clumsy, and desperate to escape her uncle—even willing to lock a third party in a mental hospital for the rest of her life in order for Maud to escape.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Averted—Maud despises everyone at the house on Lant Street and whatever sympathy she has for Mrs. Sucksby seems based on Mrs. Sucksby's sacrifice on her behalf.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Given the emotional upheaval that Maud has been through the last few weeks, not least of which is being held against her will at Lant Street, it's not surprising she reached a breaking point. Plus, the thing that tipped her over the edge was Gentleman trying to hurt Sue with the truth about Mrs. Sucksby.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Maud is described as sewing during downtime with Sue.
  • Toothy Issue: Maud has a sharp tooth giving her pains, and Sue grinds the point off with Maud's thimble. The scene is played very erotically, with Maud vividly recalling the feeling of Sue's fingers in her mouth.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: With Sue. Maud really wants her—to the point that Gentleman notices.
  • Uptown Girl: Maud is from a wealthy family, set to inherit a fortune from her mother, while Sue and Gentleman are both poverty-stricken criminals.
  • Why Can't I Hate You?: Even though Maud is fully aware Sue came to Briar to ruin her life and steal from her, she can't bring herself to dislike her.

     Gentleman/Richard Rivers 
Gentleman—operating under the false name Richard Rivers—is working a job mounting pictures for the elderly, wealthy Mr. Lilly, when he concocts a plan to marry Mr. Lilly's niece, lock her up in a mental hospital, and make off with her inheritance. He recruits Sue to help him persuade Ms. Lilly into the marriage.

  • Ambiguously Gay: He's a fine-dressed man who balks against having his clothes mussed and he doesn't sleep with Maud on their wedding night, or ever suggest that he wants to, and when they formulate a plan to get rid of her last maid, Agnes, Maud assumes Gentleman deflowered her—but he tells her later, there are "other ways" of ruining a woman's reputation.
  • Asshole Victim: It's hard to sympathize with Gentleman after Maud fatally stabs him because he's such a shmarmy slimeball.
  • The Beard: Gentleman marries Maud in order to get her away from her uncle and to get at her fortune. Later on it's revealed that Maud was in on the plan from the start and was willing to marry him to escape her uncle even though she's gay, making Gentleman this.
  • The Bet: Gentleman and Sue's plan hinges on Gentleman being able to make Maud fall in love with him and agree to elope with him.
  • Con Man: In a classic example, Gentleman—under the legitimate employ of Mr. Lilly—sets out to marry his niece and defraud her of her fortune by shutting her up in a mental institution after their wedding night.
  • Consummation Counterfeit: It's Gentleman's blood spilled on the bed sheets to feign the loss of Maud's virginity on their wedding night.
  • Counterfeit Cash: Gentleman often carries around fake coins, and passes one off to Sue as a "tip" in front of Maud when Sue agrees to look the other way while he woos Maud.
  • Gold Digger: Gentleman is only interested in marrying Maud for her inheritance, which she cannot legally receive until she's married.
  • Greed: Gentleman craves the lifestyle of a loaded London noble, and sees his marriage to Maud as the way to get there.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: Plants a smooch on Maud's bare hand after Sue fell asleep chaperoning them. Doubly intimate as Maud is always wearing gloves—Sue remarks that it was even better than kissing her on the lips.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: You might think, learning that Gentleman saw how unhappy Maud was, and offered to help her escape that he was genuinely concerned with her well-being, or just saw a chance to offer her a hand out of a bad situation. At least that he would consider her his partner in crime, and treat her accordingly. You'd be wrong.
  • Kick the Dog: As The Plan draws to its conclusion, Gentleman attempts to tell Sue a painful truth, for no reason other than it amuses him. Unfortunately for Gentleman, this results in Maud killing him to protect Sue from hearing it.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: After recruiting Sue to help him defraud the heiress Maud Lilly, Gentleman turns around and sends Sue to an asylum in Maud's place.
  • Sexless Marriage: Gentleman makes no move to consummate his and Maud's marriage, and there's no question of any physical aspect to their relationship at any time. He even sleeps in an armchair on their wedding night for fear Maud will strangle him in his sleep.
  • Sissy Villain: Gentleman throws a hissy fit over having to cut himself for the blood to feign that Maud lost her virginity on their wedding night. Maud even offers to do it for him to spare her his whining.
  • Smug Snake: Gentleman mocks both Sue and Maud for their feelings (not just about each other, but anything in general), and is generally antagonistic towards both, despite their respective parts in his plot.


Supporting Cast

     Mrs. Grace Sucksby 
The woman who raised Sue, and runs a practice "farming" (raising and sending out) unwanted or orphaned children (of which Sue was one). She supports Sue and Gentleman's scheme to rob Maud, and Sue thinks of her as her own mother.

  • Anti-Villain: While she comes off as harsh (particularly to the other members of the Lant Street house), she did take Sue in as an orphan and has raised her as her own daughter. Although she locked Sue up in a madhouse, she never made a move to hurt Maud, even though she could have taken her fortune and offed her. Additionally, she seems genuinely aggrieved by the idea of Sue learning the truth of her, and takes the blame for Maud when Gentleman is killed.
  • Fostering for Profit: With Sue. Although she acts as a kindly, if stern, mother-figure, all of this was to the end of securing Ms. Marianne Lilly's fortune when Maud came of age.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Seems to have this reaction after taking the blame for Gentleman's murder when she sees what her machinations have cost Sue and Gentleman.
  • Parental Betrayal: To both Sue and Maud. The former, she raised as her own daughter, but was then willing to lock her up in a madhouse forever to regain her blood daughter, Maud. The latter she was willing to keep prisoner on Lant street, and rob for her own benefit. Moreover, she gave Maud up as an infant to Marianne Lilly in an exchange, so that she might later benefit from Maud's inheritance.
  • Parental Substitute: With Sue, whose mother was hanged for murder when she was a toddler.
  • Wham Line: My own dear girl.

     Mr. Lilly 
Maud's wealthy uncle, who also acts as her caretaker, and has legally stipulated she cannot inherit until she marries. Gentleman has a job framing pictures for him which puts him in contact with Maud.

  • All Men Are Perverts: Mr. Lilly's grand project is an archive of smutty literature and pornographic drawings. He habitually makes Maud read aloud from his novels for visitors, who also fit this trope.
  • Nephewism: He's Maud's blood uncle, and has raised her since she was eleven (and had custody of her since her mother's death).
  • Resentful Guardian: Mr. Lilly does not like children, and has no patience for Maud's childish outbursts and temper tantrums when she first comes to Briar.
  • Sliding Scale of Parent-Shaming in Fiction: Type III. Even outside threatening Maud with a knife, and making her read obscene literature to strange adult men, he tolerated or instructed the way his servants treated her, from hitting her to locking her in a freezer to 'teach her a lesson'.

One of the servants from Briar, Charles is a young boy who aspires to serve a great gentleman—something he believes he's found in Gentleman.

  • Ambiguously Gay: Charles is really passionate about working for Gentleman and seems personally wounded by the idea that Gentleman is really a scoundrel. Sue uses this idea to coerce his help in several legally inadvisable schemes.
  • Men Don't Cry: Subverted— Charles cries all the time, to Sue's annoyance.
  • Stupid Good: Even when Sue and Charles are making their way on foot back to London, Charles balks at every morally questionable act Sue takes, from helping her break out of the madhouse in the first place, to lying, to stealing.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Charles refuses to see that Gentleman is a scumbag and is horrified by Sue and the thieves' illegal and morally lacking actions.

Example of: