Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
James Leeds, a speech teacher at a state school for the deaf. A sensitive, caring, and charismatic teacher in his thirties, James finds himself challenged by Sarah Norman, a sarcastic and rebellious maid at the school whom the headmaster has asked James to help in his spare time. Matching her sarcasm with his own wit and with unorthodox methods of instruction, James attracts her to him and is in turn attracted by her beauty and intelligence. Engaging in a battle of wits via sign language, they fall in love and get married, against the warnings of the headmaster. Despite his attempts to understand Sarah and her point of view, James insists on trying to make her over, pressuring her to learn to read lips and to speak rather than remain entirely dependent on sign language. When a fellow student, Orin Dennis, engages in a battle with James and tries to recruit Sarah into his militant program of reform, she rejects them both, stating that she is her own person. If James is to win her back, he must accept her on her own terms. He learns the damage his attempts to remake her have caused, acknowledges his love and need for her, and attempts a reconciliation.
Sarah Norman, a twenty-six-year-old maid at a state school for the deaf. Deaf since birth, Sarah is estranged from her mother and rebellious against the world. She is highly intelligent but uses her wits only for sarcastic retorts against anyone...
(The entire section is 621 words.)
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Orin is two years younger than Sarah and has been a student with her at the State School for the Deaf since he was a young child. Orin, however, has some residual hearing and practices both his lip-reading and his speech. He is described as "the guardian of all... deaf children because he [is] an apprentice teacher and speaks." He is also described as someone who"wants to lead a revolution against the hearing world and thinks [the deaf] can hardly wait to follow him."
Onn is angry that Sarah appears to have abandoned him and the deaf world in favor of James and the hearing world. But he enlists both of them to join him in a complaint against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that alleges discriminatory hiring practices against teachers who are deaf. He is single-minded in pursuit of his goal, convincing a lawyer, Ms. Klein, to advise them about the case. He wants Sarah to leave her"little romance'' and fight with him for deaf rights. Because of his lip-reading and speaking skills, Orin acts as a bridge between the two worlds, although it is apparent from his thoughts and actions that he feels more comfortable in the deaf community.
Mr. Franklin is the Supervising Teacher at the State School for the Deaf. He is one of the "Great White Fathers" of deaf education. He takes a condescending attitude toward everyone. He views all the deaf, even the adults like Orin and...
(The entire section is 972 words.)