As a soldier who has had a difficult life both at war and at home, Prior is a conflicted and complicated character. From what we know, Prior is entirely fictional, which frees Barker from any constraints linked to Prior's beliefs, past, or future. As a result, Prior is deeply nuanced in his thoughts and reactions. We receive a glimpse of Prior's past when his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Prior, come to visit Craiglockhart. Prior's conflicted nature is not surprising, considering that his parents come from such differing views with regard to their son's well being. Such emotional conflict clearly causes Prior stress; he develops a physical asthmatic reaction to their visit.

Prior's belief system is complicated: He believes he has a duty to serve, but his ambitions preempt this duty as a reason for him to return to the war. Prior wants to prove to himself that he is a good soldier, a man who will not break down under pressure—a masculine figure. Opposing this desire, however, is the very real fear that he will be killed in the war. Prior is hesitant to admit this fear, and he cries when he is told he will not be returning to the war. He is in many ways a self-absorbed character; he cares first and foremost about his own recovery and his own experiences. When he takes Sarah to the shore, he is envious of the people around him who are able to escape the war experience. In the end, Prior endeavors to lead a normal existence, taking solace in the fact that there will be a part of his life—Sarah—that is not tarnished by the war.