FROM WRITING HOME
The characterization of 'The Lady in the Van' is very strong. The overriding impression of the lady and her position is unfavourable, yet Bennett's feelings are ambivalent owing to the undercurrent of admiration for her.
Descriptions of her physical being and situation are very telling. The 'old van' is described fairly negatively 'towed away ... ended up' and although the new one seems better physically despite its 'murky windscreen,' its closer proximity has worsened the whole scene, since the visitors must now 'squeeze past' and are 'scrutinized' be her. The irony of the situation is self-evident: an uninvited guest makes invited guests feel like intruders. The van's interior reflects its unkempt occupant: 'a midden [refuse pile] of old clothes…half eaten food ... ragged/tattered draperies.' Images of decay and neglect permeate the text: 'grimy raincoat...lanky grey hair.'
Ghostly descriptions pervade the third paragraph 'haunting ... spectral...tomb' which are reinforced by the witch-like nature of her home-made petrol recipe 'a spoonful of...a gallon of ... a pinch of.'
Miss Shepherd's personality is vividly communicated. Her sense of humour is comically sardonic: 'I don't think this style can have got to Tunbridge Wells yet.' However, she sharply conveys a rude and ungrateful side of her nature which is reflected in the words: 'Pipe down....I'm trying to sleep.' Her actions can be loud, boisterous and undignified 'flung open ... hurled ... sides on her bottom.' She is forthright in her opinions when provoked, which can be seen on more than one occasion. Yet she is a private person ('unusually, she told me a little of her own life') and her outbursts can be seen as a defence mechanism to avoid the prying eyes and questions of the public.
The form of this extract is varied. Bennett mainly uses diary entries to convey his informative and explanatory narrative, but the inclusion of scripted conversation between the lady...