Although not the title character, Jackson Bradley seems to be the protagonist of Catherine Carmier. He is certainly the most powerful active force in the novel, the character whose desires and actions disturb the static community in which the novel is set.
Jackson is defined in part by the desires of other characters as those desires intersect with his. Charlotte’s desire, for example, is that Jackson will settle down and teach school. For Charlotte, Jackson represents the future—but the future, for Charlotte, means essentially a continuation of what has been. Because Charlotte is a sympathetic character, she can suggest the value of what Jackson is rejecting. For a seeker such as Jackson, however, Charlotte’s dream would be a surrender. Mary Louise’s desire is that Jackson will return her unselfish love (she clearly distinguishes between love and possession), but to Jackson, that too would mean surrendering the freedom his nature demands. Jackson also feels alienated from his old friend Brother, in part because Brother seems, to Jackson, to be disturbingly free of desire. In cutting himself off from his past, however, Jackson has not succeeded in liberating himself; he suffers from a sense of aimless drift.
Madame Bayonne does not play an active role in the novel. Strictly speaking, she makes nothing happen. Her function is to allow Jackson to articulate his feelings, and she acts as a kind of ironic chorus, commenting on the...
(The entire section is 518 words.)