Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Inez Christian Victor
Inez Christian Victor, an attractive member of an entrenched, wealthy Hawaiian family that lacks warmth and closeness. At the age of twenty, in 1955, she weds Harry Victor, who in 1969 becomes a U.S. senator and is later considered to be presidential material. Politics, she decides, costs her her memory and privacy. Consequently, she looks for intimacy in an intermittent affair with Jack Lovett, who, however, as an international adventurer is rarely available. After his death, she decides to assist refugees in Kuala Lumpur, with whom she can identify emotionally.
Paul Christian, a ruthless aristocrat whose business interests often take him away from Hawaii. Obsessed with protecting his wealth and power, he not only drives away his wife and his daughter Inez but, in 1975, also kills his other daughter, Janet, for making land deals with Japanese American entrepreneur Wendell Omura. He is placed in a state asylum.
Carol Christian, a California model who, in 1934, marries Paul Christian. Naïvely expecting to be embraced by the people of privilege in Hawaii, instead she remains an outsider. Out of loneliness, she often keeps her young children at home with her. Still uncomfortable in a society that ignores her, she finally abandons the islands and starts a career, booking celebrities for radio interviews in San Francisco. After Janet’s...
(The entire section is 689 words.)
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Democracy chronicles a woman's search for identity during America's turbulent 1960s and 1970s. It is a quest that is completed in 1975, soon after the final evacuation of American troops from Vietnam and Cambodia. Didion, who identifies herself as the narrator of the story, compiles fragments of Inez Christian Victor's life in an effort to help order Inez's experiences, and thus provide meaning to her life.
Inez is the strongest character in the novel, and the one whose point of view the reader most frequently shares. Indeed, the author testifies that Inez was to have been the first-person narrator of an abandoned version of the book. Born on January 1, 1935, Inez marries Harry Victor and becomes the mother of twins: Adlai, a boy, and Jessie, a girl. As the wife of an ambitious politician, Inez has to develop mannerisms peculiar to people in the public eye. She is the primary focus for one of the book's most insistent themes: the insidiously destructive nature of public life. Inez, like others in her position, has "lost track." In playing a part for so long, in so diligently ensuring that her every gesture is tailored for general scrutiny, she has lost all memory of what being herself means.
The novel focuses on Inez's marriage to Harry Victor and her long love affair with Jack Lovett, a CIA freelancer. She first meets Jack in Hawaii on her seventeenth birthday and begins a brief affair. A few years later, she marries Harry Victor and...
(The entire section is 1628 words.)
Jack Lovett is an undercover operator with a finger in many pies. An opportunist, he makes the best of a given situation. The exact nature of his operations is kept vague, but the reader is given the strong impression that he makes his living by arms-dealing and similar activities. In particular, towards the end of the novel he is implicated in profiting from events surrounding the American withdrawal from Vietnam. However, Didion is at pains to exempt him from accusations of treason: "It would be accurate only to say that he regarded the country on whose passport he traveled as an abstraction, a state actor, one of several to be factored into any given play."
For Jack, Inez is certainly not an abstraction. He falls for her on their first meeting, which is on her seventeenth birthday, during the intermission of a ballet. They have a brief affair. His marriage to Carla Lovett ends in the same year. But Jack is much older than Inez. She has her young life to lead, and the two of them meet only sporadically across a span of more than twenty years. At each encounter it is apparent that the old spark is still alive. However, Inez, despite the shallowness of her life with Harry, will not leave her husband for Jack. His entreaties are always charmingly understated. Finally, in the melodramatic closing of the book, Jack is able to seize the initiative, and Inez surrenders to his man-of-action prowess.
The renewal of intimacy between Jack and Inez is...
(The entire section is 323 words.)
Inez Victor, Harry Victor's wife, was born Inez Christian on January 1, 1935. She is the mother of twins: Adlai, a boy, and Jessie, a girl. She is the strongest character in the novel, and the one whose point of view the reader most frequently shares. Indeed, the author testifies that Inez was to have been the first-person narrator of an abandoned version of the book. As the wife of an ambitious politician, Inez has to develop mannerisms peculiar to people in the public eye. She is the primary focus for one of the book's most insistent themes: the insidiously destructive nature of public life. Inez, like others in her position, has "lost track." In playing a part for so long, in so diligently ensuring that her every gesture is tailored for general scrutiny, she has lost all memory of what being herself means.
Inez met and fell in love with Jack Lovett in 1952, before leaving Honolulu to start an art course at Sarah Lawrence College. But she marries Harry Victor in 1955. The private story told by the novel concerns Inez's repeated encounters with Jack, and her apparent resistance to his entreaties, up until the climax of the novel in which she finally walks out on her husband.
(The entire section is 206 words.)
Betty Bennett, introduced as a "Honolulu divorcee," was a close neighbor of Janet and Dick Ziegler. For eighteen months, between 1962 and 1964, Betty is Jack Lovett's second wife, an experience which "left little impression on either of them."
Carol Christian, who is married to Paul Christian, is the mother of Inez and Janet. Although it is Inez and Janet who become the two main female characters, Didion admits early on in the novel that she "was interested more in Carol Christian than in her daughters." Having arrived in Honolulu as a bride in 1934, Carol Christian is always an outsider on the islands, and stubbornly lonely in her marriage. She leaves dark red lipstick marks on her cigarettes, which she stubs out after barely smoking them, and spends hours at her dressing table, which is strewn with paper parasols from cocktails. She dies in a Piper Apache plane crash near Reno, Nevada, soon after her daughter Janet's marriage to Dick Ziegler.
The brother of Paul Christian, and therefore uncle to Inez and Janet, Dwight has a moral saying ready for every occasion, a characteristic which Didion treats mockingly. The quotations come from extracts torn from a weekly column, "Thoughts on the Business Life," subsequently typed up on index cards by Paul's secretary to form a file. Paul is described as having more significance in the early life of Inez and Janet...
(The entire section is 1291 words.)