The Characters (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
The central character is Piet Hanema, a local builder who values old-fashioned style and construction techniques, much to the dismay of his partner. Piet is also a lover who searches for a release from his fears of death in the sexual encounters that he shares with his neighbors’ wives. Traumatized by the early death of his immigrant parents in an automobile accident, Piet is losing his once-vital Christian faith, finally abandoning it altogether in favor of salvation through the flesh in his new marriage to Foxy. It is Piet’s quest for personal meaning which forms the core of the plot and not the more highly sensational sexual antics of the Tarbox menage. Over against Piet are placed the two central female characters: Angela, Piet’s wife and the mother of his children, and Foxy, his lover, future wife, and, one presumes, future mother of more children. Angela, as her name implies, represents for Piet something spiritual and therefore unattainable. She accepts life and death as part of a natural cycle and does not share either Piet’s fears about his mortality or his search for a meaning in life. The very anxieties to which she does not respond, however, provide the attraction which draws other women into trying to comfort Piet’s sense of loss. Portrayed as possessing a diminishing sensuality, Angela becomes increasingly distant, both as a wife and as a symbol for Piet, thereby opening the opportunity for the affair with Foxy, who is sexually willing and who...
(The entire section is 528 words.)
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Piet Hanema (peet), a builder and partner in the firm of Gallagher and Hanema, Real Estate and Contracting. A muscular, restless, red-headed, thirty-four-year-old Korean War veteran whose Dutch parents died in an auto accident, he worries about damnation and the aimlessness of his life. An insomniac and a womanizer, he has dreams that are often morbid, and his lusty heterosexuality is a subversive influence on the other Tarbox couples. Hired by Ken and Foxy Whitman to repair their house, he becomes the pregnant woman’s lover and later impregnates her himself. After others find out about Foxy’s subsequent abortion, Piet separates from his wife, marries Foxy, and moves to San Diego.
Angela Hanema, Piet’s wife, a kindergarten teacher. A sweet, serene, stately thirty-four-year-old with tiny feet and a dolphinlike body, the angelic Angela has a bland, languid opacity that makes her somewhat boring and frigid. She is shaken out of her comfortable domesticity by the consequences of her husband’s infidelities. She agrees to sleep with Freddy Thorne as payment for his arranging Foxy’s abortion. In return, Piet agrees to let her start psychotherapy. After divorcing Piet, she becomes a full-time teacher and invites her father to move in with her and her two daughters.
Ruth Hanema, the eldest daughter of Piet and Angela. A placid, stoic nine-year-old...
(The entire section is 1714 words.)