Mad Dog 2003

Characters: Richard Fenton

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Richard Fenton

Cynical, solitary and word-weary, Fenton does not suffer those he considers to be fools gladly. Articulate, intelligent and reflective, Dr Richard Fenton's own survival strategy after The Death has been to adopt the position of the detached observer — judging the actions of others as they attempt to come to grips with the traumas of the new world.

He relishes the challenge of corroding Charles' sense of optimism and drive, and infecting him with his own sense of melancholy and hopelessness. He takes enormous pleasure in mocking Charles' plans for reconstruction.

Fenton is fascinated by the prospect of the last resources of the old world being used up — down to the last match — and enjoys trying to convince Charles that the human race is doomed. It is a rich irony that what are to Fenton amused scribbling of the foibles, empty ambitions and comings-and-goings of travellers, recorded only for his own amusement, are to Charles vital data which might reveal the whereabouts of Greg, and aid his plans for reconstruction. It is entirely in character that, having met Greg, Fenton should dismiss his tales of hot air balloon trips and travels to Norway as the stuff of deluded fantasy.

Fenton is keen to acknowledge how much he enjoys the unevenly-matched conversation with Charles. In fact, Charles' sense of ambition and drive, and his sharp intelligence, are hugely attractive to Fenton — making the task of deflating and undermining this wilful stranger all the more attractive.

Fenton is, at the same time, both practical and resourceful. Known in the area, and to travellers through it, as a dependable trader, he maintains two houses enabling him to range far and wide across the district, encountering people and bartering where he can. He has raided an army camp on the nearby moors, and secreted away a clutch of automatic rifles. And yet he does seem to have little interest in material things — unconcerned by the risk of lending Charles a rifle without payment.

For all Fenton's cynicism and contempt, he does not wish ill of others, and would be appalled that, in his delirium, he threatened Charles, Sanders and Jim. Indeed, in a moment of lucidity, he asks Charles to fetch him his rifle so that he might end his own life, without enduring suffering and ignominy of a rabid death. Knowing that there was no way out, he would probably have judged — in his usual pragmatic and unsentimental way — Sanders' and Jim's decision to execute him as entirely justified.

Had he lived, Fenton would have found great amusement in the news in a few months time that “Gregory… [the] idiot” would be crowned king of Charles' putative new nation…


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Page last updated:
12 May 2004