The Characters & Names

3.1.4 The characters

Which main characters are fictitious?

[jp,jb,sb,ap,mc,maw] Of the central 'real' characters identified by name in "Heavenly Creatures," none are fictitious.

The only characters from the Rieper home who haven't been confirmed yet are the boarders Steve Bayliss and Laurie. Boarders named Ross and John have been confirmed from Pauline's diaries (see 7.4.3). All Riepers have been confirmed (see 3.2 and 7.1).

All characters from the Hulmes' home have been confirmed (see 3.2 and 7.1), including Mr Perry, though it isn't clear from "Heavenly Creatures" that Mr Perry was actually living at Ilam.

Characters from school who haven't been confirmed yet include the Geography(?) teacher Mrs Stevens, the Art teacher Mrs Collins and the Gym teacher Mrs Zwortz(?) [note: All are suspected to be real. Tentative confirmation of Mrs Zwortz. [maw] jp].

Miss Stewart has been confirmed [ap,mc].

Miss Waller has been confirmed [mc,maw].

Of the authority figures, Dr Bennett has been confirmed (see 7.1) [mc].

Although Rev Norris has not been confirmed, a trusted source has indicated that there was an Archdeacon H G Norris in Christchurch, a school chaplain at St Margaret's College (in the late 60s anyway -he died before the end of that decade). It would have been possible that JH could have encountered him there on a brief stint at SMC. Another indication perhaps of Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh's incredible research and attention to detail! Names

What is the origin of the name "Heavenly Creatures?"

[jp,sb] The term appears in a poem "The Ones That I Worship" written by Pauline and recited by Melanie Lynskey in the film's voiceover (see also 7.4). Pauline used the term to refer to herself and Juliet, intending it to encompass all of their physical and spiritual 'identities.' The girls did not use the term "heavenly creatures" explicitly in any conversation in the film.

The term "heavenly creatures" appears in all popular and scholarly articles written around or slightly after the trial, though it does not appear in some articles written substantially after the trial. The version of the poem used by the filmmakers (and quoted widely by the press at the time of the trial) was obtained from the version read into testimony during the trial.

The two "Heavenly Creatures" go by many names. Why?

[jp,lfr] First, the two girls are called different names in the film by different people--this is true to life but not often seen in movies. Second, the girls invent names for the imaginary characters who people their "Fourth World" and their imaginary Kingdom of "Borovnia" and they address each other by those names from time to time, and increasingly so as the film progresses.

The constant renaming of the girls throughout the film suggests themes of continual rebirth and transformation.

By what names is Juliet known in the film?

Juliet:   Used by Juliet's parents, by Pauline's parents, by teachers and authority figures.

Antoinette:   Juliet's self-chosen name in French class. There is an interesting real-life connection between this name and Anne Perry, who has maintained an abiding interest in the French Revolution (see 7.10.2)

Julie:   Used familiarly by Pauline in April, 1953 at Port Levy and, significantly, in the devastating final moments of the film.

Giulietta:   Used familiarly by Pauline in May, 1953.

Deborah:   Used as Juliet's "Fourth World" and 'Borovnian' name by Pauline and as her given name from Christmas 1953 onward. The girls pronounce it "deh-BORE-ah." [jp]

By what names is Pauline known in the film?

Pauline:   Used by teachers and other authority figures.

Paulette:   Pauline's self-chosen name in French class.

Paul:   Used familiarly by schoolmates and Mrs Hulme, and by Juliet up to Christmas 1953.

Yvonne:   Used by Pauline's family (her middle name).

Charles:   Pauline's pen name in letters to Juliet when Juliet was confined to the TB sanatorium.

Gina:   Used by Juliet and Pauline herself as her "Fourth World" and "Borovnia" name. Pauline demanded, unsuccessfully, that her mother also use this name when addressing her. Hilda Hulme did use this name for Pauline. This name was used by Juliet in the final "ship" scene.[jp]

By what names is John-the-boarder known in the film?

John:   Used by everyone but Pauline.

Nicholas:   Pauline's 'Borovnian' name for John. [jp]

Where does the family name "Parker" occur in the story?

[jp] Only one character is referred to by the name "Parker" in the film, and she is 'Nana' Parker, Pauline's maternal grandmother. Nana Parker is seen sitting quietly in the living/dining room in several scenes, including the two "Christmas" scenes, and at table for several meals. Pauline recounts a story told to her by Nana Parker, during a quarrel with her mother in the Riepers' kitchen.

Who is Pauline Parker? Is she Pauline Rieper?

[jp] Pauline Parker is known as Pauline Rieper in the film. This is true to fact--up until the murder took place, the real Pauline used the family name Rieper and she was known as Pauline Rieper. Since the film is only concerned with the time before and up to the murder, Pauline's family name is Rieper in "Heavenly Creatures." Dr Hulme, of course, referred to Pauline as "that... Rieper girl."

Why in real life is it called the "Parker Hulme" murder?

[jp] Pauline's mother and father were never legally married--a fact revealed by the police investigation following the murder but not known to Pauline or anyone else in the community (except Nana Parker) up to that point. Hence, the legal family name of Pauline's mother when she was murdered was still Parker, even though she went by the name Rieper. In all official real-life references to her in police reports and the press she is called Honora Parker.

Similarly, Pauline's legal name at the time of the murder was Pauline Parker because she was never legally adopted by her father and that was what she was called in real-life documents and reports after the murder.

This whole business of marital status and legal names must have been tremendously humiliating and a cruel additional stress for the already-suffering Rieper family. It was common in those times to describe women by their marital status in news accounts. For example, Hilda Hulme was referred to as "Hilda Marion Hulme, a married woman,..." in The Press (Christchurch). Legitimacy was still very much an important social concept in 1954, especially in Christchurch, and Pauline was now publicly declared to be a bastard on top of all the other labels she would acquire.

The press and public made two important concessions to the Riepers, however, in recognition of their standing in the community and in sympathy for their suffering. They may seem small measures to modern sensibilities, but they would not have gone un-noticed or unappreciated at the time. First, Honora Parker was almost always referred to as Mrs Parker, in tacit recognition of her being the de facto wife of Mr Rieper. Second, neither she nor Mr Rieper were ever referred to as being the 'common-law' spouse, which would have been legally correct but would have just drawn excessive attention to the fact that the two were not legally married. However, newspaper accounts did not refer to Herbert Rieper as "husband of..." but usually stated that he had lived with Honora Parker as her husband for 23 years. The number '23' was supplied by Herbert Rieper and has an interesting story attached to it (see 3.2.9).

"Heavenly Creatures" is precise and correct in these matters. The information presented at the start of the film identifies Pauline as Pauline Parker, but most viewers don't retain the surname at that point. By the time the end notes are shown, the audience has come to know Pauline as Pauline Rieper. The short statement used to explain why Pauline was charged as Pauline Parker is then a poignant one.

How might the Riepers' marital status have affected things?

[maw] For Pauline to obtain a passport, she would have had to register herself under her true, legal name. This would have meant Honora and Herbert would have been obliged to admit to their family that they weren't married and that all children were illegitimate. It seems unlikely that Honora would have told Pauline these things and they might have been powerful reasons why she wouldn't allow Pauline to get a passport.

Who was "The most hideous man alive?"

[jp] Orson Welles, of course. Or, was it? See 3.1.20.
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