Mary’s odd nature defies her ordinary appearance. As a child, she performs a miracle, falling on the school playground ice and leaving a “manifestation” that is interpreted by the nuns as the face of Jesus. Mary sees only Karl’s face in the imprint, while Celestine sees nothing at all. Mary’s power to tell fortunes and foresee the future arouses fear in some of the other characters. Sita’s mental illness and Dot’s bad temper are blamed on her. Even the clothes she wears, tasselled turbans and wild prints, contribute to her oddness. Like other characters in the book, Mary does not develop over time but becomes more deeply what she is.
Karl would seem to be a weak, irresponsible man by his actions. He abandons Mary when they are children, he moves in and out of Wallace’s house according to whim, and he changes jobs frequently. It is Celestine who asks him to leave when she is pregnant, however, and he agrees to the formality of a marriage after the baby is born. The way he is presented depends upon which character is speaking at any given time. He is frequently associated with Christian images, and sometimes with Satanic ones. When he visits Sita, she sees him sinking into the soft grass beneath her garden chairs until he is swallowed up by earth. Karl refers to himself as a “poor fool,” and he may represent the fool of the tarot cards that Mary reads. He is the most ambiguous figure in the novel.
Celestine, who is half...
(The entire section is 511 words.)