Character Analysis in The Were-Wolf
Christian: Sweyn’s twin, Christian selflessly loves Sweyn and respects his brother’s authority. The only thing Christian is better at than Sweyn is running; in all other things Sweyn bests Christian. Christian’s beliefs tend toward being more accepting of supernatural events or sympathetic toward superstition, which allows him to come to the conclusion that White Fell is a werewolf early on. His devotion to his family and his drive are unparalleled.
Sweyn: Sweyn is physically a perfect man. Muscular, quick, and graceful, he is Christian’s better in all ways except for running. Because of his physical superiority, he tends to be selfish in thought and action. Sweyn is skeptical of superstition and belief and ignores evidence that does not comply with his worldview. He is attracted to White Fell and does not believe she is a werewolf.
White Fell: White Fell is a beautiful woman who arrives on the family’s doorstep in the midst of a terrible storm. Strong and capable, she is an idealized version of a woman, complementing Sweyn’s perfection. She serves as a version of a “femme fatale,” her presence and affection causing conflict between the brothers amid the disappearances of family members.
Character Analysis Examples in The Were-Wolf:
"the dead body was his only shelter and stay in that most dreadful hour. His soul, stripped bare of all sceptic comfort, cowered, shivering, naked, abject; and the living clung to the dead out of piteous need for grace from the soul that had passed away...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
Sweyn has realized what Christian knew all along: White Fell was a werewolf, intent on harming the family. Stripped of the conviction and anger that brought him there, Sweyn only finds shelter and “stay”—another word for comfort—with the knowledge of Christian’s loyalty and sacrifice. Because he misread the situation so poorly due to his skepticism of his brother’s intentions, Sweyn seeks forgiveness from Christian, who only ever sought to protect his brother.
"He grew mad with a desire to have Christian by the throat once again, not to loose this time till he had crushed out his life, or beat out his life, or stabbed out his life; or all these, and torn him piecemeal likewise: and ah! then, not till then, bleed his heart with weeping, like a child, like a girl, over the piteous fate of his poor lost love...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
Sweyn displays a large amount of misplaced emotion, further intensified by the repetition of various ways he wishes to kill Christian. He is not in a completely sane state of mind, grieving more for White Fell’s death than his loyal brother’s supposed betrayal.
"when the woman's form made no longer a shield against a man's hand, he could slay or be slain to save Sweyn..." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
Christian is ruled by his emotions and sense of propriety. Though he is sure that White Fell is a werewolf, he cannot bring himself to be violent against a woman, having already had trouble striking his beloved brother. Now, he waits for midnight, when it is said that a werewolf must change from its human form to its true wolf shape.
"there was just a possibility that, by a straight dash, and a desperate perilous leap over a sheer bluff, he might yet meet her or head her...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
In contrast to Sweyn’s insistence that White Fell and Christian will not encounter one another after fleeing the confrontation, Christian is able to figure out White Fell’s path and strives to challenge her. Though Sweyn is the professed rationale twin, Christian displays a greater ability for well-reasoned analytical thinking.
"The elder brother, self-sufficient and insensitive, could little know how deeply his unkindness stabbed...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
Again, notice how Christian is capable of a much more profound love than his brother. Sweyn, by virtue of his arrogance and thoughtlessness, is unable to comprehend how much he is hurting his twin, for his selfishness prevents the depth of love Christian feels for him.
"the superstitious fears that Sweyn despised...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
Because Sweyn is a professed skeptic and Christian gives credence to mysticism, Sweyn and Christian’s conflict is philosophical as well as physical. To Sweyn’s displeasure, Christian’s suspicion has spread to other members of the family. Despite his insistence on rational evidence, Sweyn refuses to consider evidence that may implicate White Fell as anything more than just a beautiful, powerful woman.
"by his staunch defence of her hurried flight silencing his own inner consciousness of the unaccountability of her action...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
That Sweyn thinks himself so skeptical is interesting in light of this line. According to this, he believes what he wants to believe about White Fell, failing to take into account the evidence of her comings and goings.
""Like a beaten dog!" he said to himself, rallying contempt to withstand compunction...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
Sweyn values strength above all else; to see his brother beaten down is not a cause for concern but one for scorn. Sweyn is not entirely coldhearted in his actions since he does have to battle feelings of guilt—another word for “compunction”—over Christian’s condition.
"Sweyn had turned to allay the scared excitement half by imperious mastery, half by explanation and argument, that showed painful disregard of brotherly consideration. ..." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
The verb “to allay” means to relieve or diminish and the adjective “imperious” means assuming authority without justification. Because Sweyn is arrogant, he assumes that he can calm the chaos simply be exerting the influence that has always been his. Christian believes he is not being taken seriously by his brother, which pains him greatly.
"Such love as his frank self-love could concede was called forth by an ardent admiration for this supreme stranger...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
Contrast Sweyn’s love for White Fell with Christian’s love for Sweyn; because Sweyn is too self-involved, he cannot truly love White Fell, tending toward admiration of her physique instead. Christian, however, has been shown to deeply care for Sweyn—who perhaps doesn’t deserve his love—making his love more selfless and extraordinary.
"Sweyn, the matchless among men, acknowledged in this fair White Fell a spirit high and bold as his own, and a frame so firm and capable that only bulk was lacking for equal strength...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
Notice that Sweyn, the perfect man, has found in White Fell an equally capable woman. As Sweyn is the best of his gender, so is White Fell the best of hers, a blend of feminine beauty and masculine strength.
"To the younger brother all life was a spiritual mystery, veiled from his clear knowledge by the density of flesh...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
In contrast to Sweyn’s doubt, Christian is more willing to accept that not everything is as it initially appears. Christian is more religious, seeing a separation between the body and the soul that might allow for a shapeshifting werewolf.
"Sweyn was a sceptic...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
This paragraph explicitly establishes Sweyn as the more skeptical of the two brothers, less likely to believe in supernatural events. He scorns the validity of superstition and things he has not personally witnessed. He represents rationality and an unwillingness to believe in anything outside the realm of his own experience, even when pleaded to by those he trusts.
"Thing..." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
Notice that “Thing” is capitalized. Because of its capitalization, the word takes on a mystical significance, perhaps suggesting that whatever White Fell is, she is not part of the normal human realm of existence.
"Again Christian yielded to his brother's stronger words and will, and against his own judgment consented to silence...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
The brothers’ dynamic is uneven: Sweyn is obeyed more readily due to his physical superiority and self-centeredness. Although Christian believes he is correct in his accusations against White Fell, he does not continue to bring them up because he doesn’t have definitive proof and doesn’t want to upset his brother, whom he loves dearly.
""Women are so easily scared," pursued Sweyn, "and are ready to believe any folly without shadow of proof. Be a man, Christian,..." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
Notice the sexist way that Sweyn views women. While men need proof before belief, women, he says, tend toward belief without evidence, prioritizing emotion over intellect. This was not an uncommon view during the time; it is made more complicated, however, by Sweyn’s failing to acknowledge the evidence that points toward White Fell’s being a werewolf.
"Sweyn in his heart felt positive that it was...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
Here the point of view switches for a moment to Sweyn, so readers can understand why he does not believe Christian’s claims about White Fell. This serves to humanize Sweyn’s character and give readers information about Christian—if he’s prone to odd imaginings, it is not unlikely that Sweyn wouldn’t immediately trust Christian’s instincts.
"proud of all that Sweyn did, content with all that Sweyn was; humbly content also that his own great love should not be so exceedingly returned, since he knew himself to be so far less love-worthy...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
Christian’s love is selfless. Although he could be jealous of Sweyn, he instead finds contentment in Sweyn’s happiness, even though Sweyn doesn’t seem to return Christian’s love as fervently. In this way, Christian is the better of the two twins at brotherly loyalty.
"Only in speed could he be surpassed, and in that only by his younger brother...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
The two brothers are twins, but they are quite different. Sweyn is better in all physical aspects except for Christian’s running speed. Because of Sweyn’s physical superiority, Christian tends to defer to and greatly admire him. In this way and in their worldviews they are quite different, which is important as the story progresses.
"steeled his nerves to face the devil and all his works..." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
Sweyn has come to the conclusion that whatever continues to knock on their door is a supernatural, possibly demonic being. Though he is skeptical of superstition, he is willing to defend his family against whatever approaches their home—whether it’s natural or unnatural.
"A white-robed woman glided in. ..." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
The woman’s otherworldly nature is established from her movements: rather than walking or stumbling, she glides with grace and poise.
""I fear neither man nor beast; some few fear me."..." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
White Fell, with her obvious resilience and power, is unlike any woman the family has ever met. Though Sweyn is an accomplished hunter in his own right, even he is impressed by White Fell’s survival skills—doubly so because she is a woman. In this way, White Fell further reinforces her image as a mysterious, alluring creature: the epitome of both feminine beauty and grace and masculine strength.
"The fashion of her dress was strange, half masculine, yet not unwomanly...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
The woman’s clothing and mannerisms indicate that she does not follow the customs that dictate how women ought to be meek and averse to activity and conflict. In this way, she is set up as a combination of both sex’s traits: she is beautiful yet strong, powerful yet alluring.
"girdle..." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
The noun “girdle” refers to a type of clothing, typically worn by women, that encircles the waist. It can be a simple belt or a fuller piece of cloth. While White Fell’s wearing a girdle would not draw any comment, that she carries a weapon in her girdle would—men carried weapons for more often than women. This signals her strength and self-sufficiency.
"how he had never winced nor said a word, though his lips turned white with pain...." See in text (The Were-Wolf)
Notice how much Rol idolizes Sweyn, and how the latter values composure in light of injury. To Rol, Sweyn is the ideal: poised, brave, and strong.