Character Analysis

After This opens with Mary Rose, a single thirty-something who is lonely. She spends most of her lunch hour in church or in avoiding her coworker Pauline. She also devotes time to wondering if she will ever have another date. Then a friend of her brother’s, George, asks her out. Quite abruptly afterward, George inexplicably disappears, and Mary is married to John Keane. The remaining story takes place with the family Mary and John produce. Mary Keane is a strong-willed woman who, more than her husband, keeps the family together. She has four children, the last being delivered on the living room couch, mostly by her neighbor.

John Keane is a remote figure, one more concerned with his role in the community than within his family. He hurts his back at one point in the story, which draws a chapter’s focus on him as he lies in bed trying to deny the pain he is in and refusing to see a doctor. He also is the one who calls Gregory’s family and demands that they come over to discuss Gregory’s having impregnated John’s youngest daughter, Clare.

In the last part of the novel, the focus shifts to the Keanes’ children. Jacob says a fond farewell to his sister Clare before he leaves for Vietnam, and then all but his ghost disappears from the story. Michael goes away to college, but the narrative follows him for a while as he hangs out at Damien’s Bar and takes home a stranger to his bed. Then Annie leaves not only her family but also the country as she travels to England to go to school and, like Michael, goes to bed with someone she just met on a bus. Only Clare, the youngest, stays close to home, telling her parents at the end of the story that she and her soon-to-be husband will live with them until they both get out of school.