One Day Characters

David Nicholls (writer)
This Study Guide consists of approximately 20 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of One Day.
This section contains 1,185 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)

Dexter Mayhew

Dexter Mayhew is one of the two main characters in the novel "One Day" by David Nicholls. Dexter is the son of Alison and Stephen Mayhew, and is from a family of wealth. Dexter is thin and handsome when the novel begins, and has an appetite for girls and for fame. He has a one-night stand with Emma Morley while at university in Edinburgh, unaware that the encounter will change the rest of his life.

For the next twenty years, Dexter and Emma keep in touch by letters, emails as well as chance and intentional encounters. Dexter, though, from the start, has serious problems. He has a meteoric rise to fame in the television industry, doing late-night shows that make him all the rage with young people and teenagers. Dexter's rise to fame is accompanied by heavy drinking and drug use, as well as a slew of relationships that never last. Yet, Dexter still retains feelings for Emma, and tries to have a fling with her while dating another woman. Eventually, Dexter's reputation catches up with him, and he loses his job doing late-night show hosting. Dexter's relationship with his father is cold, because his father disapproves of his lifestyle. Dexter's mother soon after dies of cancer.

Dexter nevertheless begins a new relationship with a beautiful girl named Sylvie Cole,whose family is wealthy and suspect of Dexter. Dexter and Sylvie eventually agree to marry, because Sylvie is pregnant with a baby girl whom they name Jasmine Alison. From the start, however, the marriage is loveless, and Dexter's drinking problems come back to haunt him time and again. Sylvie, ironically, ends up having an affair with Callum McNeill, Dexter's old roommate from college. The affair ends the marriage, and sends Dexter to Paris to see Emma.

In Paris, Emma and Dexter begin a real relationship, continuing it on back in England, and they agree not only to move in with one another, but to get married and have children. Emma helps Dexter get his life together, and open a cafe, while Emma becomes a well-received novelist. While biking to meet Dexter to house hunt, Emma is killed when a car hits her. The loss of Emma sends Dexter over the edge, on a downward spiral. Ironically, it is his ex-wife and his father who help Dexter get back on his feet. A few years later, Dexter falls in love with Maddy, who works at the cafe, and the novel closes with Dexter bringing his daughter to see the sights of Edinburgh.

Emma Morley

Emma Morley is one of the two main characters in David Nicholl's novel "One Day". She is described as young, passionate, politically left-wing, and a dreamer. She has a good relationship with her parents, but she insists on not living at home. She is pretty and kind, but lacks self-confidence, a characteristic which shows and is ultimately corrected in part by Dexter's interest in her. She and Dexter sleep together one night, an event which will change the rest of both of their lives.

For the following twenty years, Emma and Dexter keep in touch with each other, exchanging letters, postcards, e-mails, phone calls, and visiting one another in person. Emma retains feelings for Dexter long after college. She becomes a teacher and an aspiring novelist, and has an unhappy affair with the principal of her school. She watches with sadness the life of Dexter, helping him where she can. She is saddened to learn that he is engaged to be married to Sylvia, but sadder still to hear of the divorce. While in Paris, she invites him to spend the weekend with her, and the two begin a real relationship that ultimately leads to marriage.

Emma's career as a novelist takes off, and she helps Dexter to get his own life back on track, and to open a cafe which becomes very successful and very popular in culinary circles.

On the cusp of turning 40, Emma and Dexter decide that they will buy a house, and have children. On the the way to meet Dexter to look at a house, Emma is hit by a car, and killed. Her loss is felt deeply by Dexter, which sends him over the edge into a binge of drinking and poor behavior. Yet Emma's memory helps Dexter to cope, and he is finally able to get on with his life and remarry years later.

Alison Mayhew

Alison Mayhew is the wife of Stephen Mayhew, and mother of Dexter Mayhew. Alison is described as a drinker, but also as a wonderful, caring mother. Alison counsels her son, telling him to make sure his life is on track, and advises him that he should go for Emma. Alison contracts cancer a few years into the book, and later dies. The loss is felt deeply by Dexter and Stephen.

Stephen Mayhew

Stephen Mayhew is the husband of Alison Mayhew, and father of Dexter Mayhew. Although Stephen and Dexter do not get along well throughout much of the novel -mostly because of Dexter's horrendous lifestyle- Stephen proves to be a competent and capable father by caring for his son following the death of Emma. Stephen helps get Dexter back on his feet, and cautions his son to live as though Emma were still with them.

Ian Whitehead

Ian Whitehead is the former boyfriend of Emma Morley, having met her while they both worked at a Tex-Mex restaurant in India. Ian is kind and caring, and aspires to be a standup comedian. He has a relationship with Emma, and proposes marriage to her, but she rejects it. Ian becomes bitter, but does find love again. When Emma dies, Ian writes to Dexter, telling him that Emma would want him to live and marry again.

Sylvie Cole

Sylvie Cole is the love interest of, and first wife of Dexter Mayhew. She falls in love with Dexter after his fall from fame, and seeks to build a life with him, but she is concerned about his unemployment and his drinking. Nevertheless, the two marry when Sylvie becomes pregnant. Soon after, the marriage dissolves when Sylvie has an affair with Callum McNeill. At the end of the novel, though they are divorced, Sylvie helps take care of Dexter, getting him to his father.

Suki Meadows

Suki Meadows is a famous late-night television star. She is also the former girlfriend of Dexter and a co-host with him on the television show. But Dexter's infidelity and carelessness, as well as his lifestyle, lead to the end of their relationship.

Stephanie Shaw

Stephanie Shaw is the college friend of Emma. Stephanie arranges to have Emma's work reviewed by her boss, a publisher.

Jasmine Mayhew

Jasmine Mayhew is the daughter of Sylvia Cole and Dexter Mayhew. She is treasured and well-cared for her by her parents, especially Dexter. Dexter brings Jasmine to Edinburgh to tell her about Emma.

Callum O'Neill

Callum McNeill is the college roommate of Dexter. Callum is serious and career-driven, and becomes a self-made man. He has an affair with Sylvie Cole, which leads to the break up of Dexter's marriage.

This section contains 1,185 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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