Bill, who narrates the story, is a contradictory character in some ways. Whereas he refers to himself as a ‘tough old seaman’ and attempts to build a tough, gritty image of himself, he is clearly sensitive and vulnerable. Andrina’s visits are important to him, though he certainly doesn’t show sufficient thanks and respect to her through his lack of interest. The descriptions of Andrina bringing ‘light’ are particularly effective as Bill seems to live a lonely, sometimes grey, life.
Bill’s abandonment of Sigrid shows a character who can be selfish and cowardly. However, one suspects that he has paid for this with a sense of ‘rootlessness’ that followed him for years afterwards. One may even argue that, when Bill states that it ‘hurts’ to think of Sigrid, it is possibly to feel a degree of sympathy for him. Though flawed, Bill is far from an evil character. He is, like everyone, vulnerable. When he states that the abandonment of Sigrid is a story that is a ‘mingling of innocence and heartlessness’, he is accurate in his self-reflection.
Sigrid’s letter to Bill gives us an insight into a thoughtful character, who has a character that is blessed with forgiveness. Despite his unfair treatment of her, she still has a ‘regard’ for Bill years afterwards. The events of her life – from her journey to Tasmania to her loss of Andrina – leads the reader to feel huge sympathy towards her.
In many ways, Andrina contrasts with Bill. Whereas Bill is often described in tough, gritty manner, Andrina is characterised by sweetness and grace. Sigrid states that she ‘has seen such sweetness rarely’ as in Andrina and, throughout the story, she brings cheer and positivity.
Sigrid’s letter is our most detailed (and reliable) source of information regarding Andrina, and it correlates with the thoughtful character who Bill himself describes. She has a sense of wonder that is endearing – she genuinely wants to find out about her grandfather and she genuinely wants to help him. There is a childlike innocence to Andrina that brings positivity where she goes – the light that she brings to both Sigrid and Bill is much more than visual, generating warmth and optimism. Overall, Andrina’s character is a symbol of unconditional love and the support that it can bring.
Although it is not revealed to the closing sections of the story, Andrina’s character is a ghost, though not in the disturbing way that we would expect.