The characters of the story are not unusual, but they are in no sense simple. They all see themselves and one another in highly individualized ways colored by faulty memories and reluctance to face certain realities.
Pearl Tull, as the central figure, has the most facets, partly because her long life has enabled her character to develop most fully, and the years have given her a measure of wisdom. She has a considerable amount of insight, calling herself “an old maid at heart,” but the blindness that afflicts her in the end and her proud refusal to acknowledge it are both metaphors of her personality. Competent and strong-willed, she is also hot-tempered and compulsive. She cares deeply for her children but is unable to express her love except in what she does for them. She is highly critical, “an angry sort of mother,” and fears weakness in herself more than anything else.
Cody, the firstborn, suffers most from his father’s abandonment, his mother’s cruel outbursts, and what he regards as her preference for Ezra. Obsessively jealous, he is a mischievous and contrary child, constantly playing malicious tricks on Ezra in a one-sided rivalry that culminates in his marriage to the only woman Ezra ever loved. Successful in his profession, he is nevertheless restless and unsatisfied, and he fails to build the kind of relationship with his son, Luke, that he so badly missed having with his own father.
Ezra is a dreamy,...
(The entire section is 448 words.)