Norman Mailer, a famous American novelist, journalist, social critic, historian, and candidate for mayor of New York City. Variously described in the third-person narrative as Mailer, the Novelist, or the Historian, Mailer is the focal character, a principal witness to the historic events the novel recounts and analyzes. A literary genius who has just published a novel, Why Are We in Vietnam?, Mailer is a reluctant participant in public demonstrations against the war in Vietnam; he believes his own literary work is his only real answer to the war. A self-described Left Conservative, he is soon persuaded to lend his extraliterary efforts to the antiwar effort and is arrested during the massive protest march to the steps of the Pentagon in October, 1967.
Robert Lowell, a much-admired rival of Mailer. He is considered to be the most talented and most distinguished poet in America. A man of great personal attractiveness, Lowell makes speeches, reads his poetry, and marches with the protesters. Along with Mailer, Dwight Macdonald, Paul Goodman, and Ed de Grazia, Lowell is a speaker at the Ambassador Theater in Washington on the Thursday night before the Saturday march on the Pentagon.
Dwight Macdonald, a gregarious, massive, and bearded literary critic. He is a speaker at the Ambassador Theater and a participant in the march. He is admired by Mailer, but their relations are touchy because Macdonald is currently at work on a review of...
(The entire section is 641 words.)