Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Charles, Katherine’s husband, a radio advertising executive and father. He recalls the birth and immediate death of his firstborn son, Nathaniel, from the perspective of several years later. Through his recollections, he comes to reconcile the death, to release the years of grief, and to place his own role and the role of his son within the birth-death experience. Charles is a man of feeling but not of fortitude and conviction. When a young internist describes how some men take to their own beds when their wives become pregnant, Charles and Katherine privately assent to the behavior. During the birth of Nathaniel, Charles’s powerlessness makes him deferential, and he is ordered out of the delivery room, despite his promise to Katherine that he will not leave her. He has difficulty articulating his sentiments, and, following his son’s death, he succumbs to the high-pressured recommendations of Dr. Harner, who urges him to sign the child over for hospital research before seeing Katherine. The death settles in Charles as an ache that takes years to soothe. Finally, after the birth of four healthy children, he fully accepts his son’s death and feels free of his memories and his burden as he begs God’s forgiveness. Through a freshly acquired awareness of Nathaniel’s power to secure his parents’ marriage, Charles experiences his own rebirth.


Katherine, Charles’s wife and a mother. Her...

(The entire section is 490 words.)