Study Guide

Color of Darkness

by James Purdy

Color of Darkness Characters

Characters Discussed (Great Characters in Literature)

Fenton Ridgeway

Fenton Ridgeway, a nineteen-year-old orphan in “63: Dream Palace.” He has come to the big city from West Virginia after his mother’s death, bringing along his sickly thirteen-year-old brother, Claire. Fenton is torn between caring for his brother—which keeps him trapped in an abandoned, rotting house, where Claire reminds him of family duty, God, and his mother—and involving himself with the dissolute, effete Parkhurst Cratty and the rich, alcoholic widow, Grainger, who are fascinated by his rough manners and good looks. He can be dull, oafish, and violent, but he also has clear insights into his own personality as well as the character of those around him. He describes himself as sick where his soul is supposed to be.

Parkhurst Cratty

Parkhurst Cratty, a writer in “63: Dream Palace” who does not seem to write anything. He is fascinated by Fenton Ridgeway from the moment he meets him in the park. Cratty, who is supported by his wife, is looking for subject material. Cratty is, at first, determined to keep Ridgeway to himself, away from Grainger, the rich widow with whom he shares a drunken, almost surrealistic existence in her home, the “Dream Palace.” Eventually, when he does take Fenton there, Grainger verbally attacks Cratty while attempting to fit Fenton into the clothes, and the role, of her former husband.

The father

The father, a cold, self-absorbed man in “Color of Darkness” whose wife has left him because he has time only for his work. He has left his son to be reared by the housekeeper, Mrs. Zilke. His isolation is so complete that he cannot even remember the color of his son’s eyes, despite the fact that his son looks just like him. He is unable to say the word “son” without a sense of...

(The entire section is 745 words.)