Gertrude Flannery is a little girl who lives in the Weeds’s neighborhood. She drifts from house to house, either making herself comfortable on other people’s porches or walking right into their homes. Those who do not know Gertrude’s family think her home life must be miserable, but her parents are actually attentive and caring. Gertrude stays away from home and wears ragged clothes as a form of rebellion. Neighbors have trouble getting rid of Gertrude because she generally ignores them when they tell her it is time to leave.
When Francis kisses Anne in his house’s foyer, he is surprised to discover that Gertrude is standing right in the hallway. Gertrude never tells anyone what she has seen, which makes the reader wonder what else the child may have seen in the neighborhood. Her character is significant for this reason: the residents of Shady Hill keep up appearances, yet Gertrude probably knows many of the residents’ secrets.
Donald Goslin is one of the Weeds’s neighbors. He plays his piano in the evenings, usually selecting ‘‘Moonlight Sonata.’’ He plays it at his own tempo rather than strictly following the sheet music.
Dr. Herzog is the psychiatrist whom Francis visits toward the end of the story. After seeing Francis for a week, Dr. Herzog convinces him that he (Francis) needs a distraction to serve as therapy. He suggests woodworking, which Francis seems to enjoy.
At a party, Francis recognizes the maid on duty. He recalls an incident during the war in which a French woman who has lived with a German officer is publicly humiliated by having her head shaved and then being stripped naked. He realizes that the maid is the woman he remembers. Although little is told about the maid’s character, Francis’s memories of her indicate that she is proud yet vulnerable.
Anne is the Weeds’s new babysitter. She reveals to Francis that she is unhappy because of her home life; her father is an alcoholic.
Although Francis becomes obsessed with Anne, she seems oblivious to the magnitude of his feelings. When he kisses her, she resists, but nothing else is said about her reaction. Francis learns from Clayton that he and Anne plan to marry when she finishes high school.
Mr. Nixon is one of the Weeds’s neighbors. He has a bird-feeding area in his backyard and yells at the squirrels every evening.
Miss Rainey is Francis’s secretary. She sees a psychiatrist, Dr. Herzog, three times a week. Miss...
(The entire section is 1094 words.)