Kelcey is a fascinating and open-minded observer of humanity, sympathetic to Dahlberg even when Dahlberg threatens his generally stable marriage. Kelcey realizes that as an artist he must grow in order to keep himself alive, and to attain the satisfaction of experiencing new ideas, new places, and new people. Yet while he is keen in his observation of people, he concludes that he must live on this planet and not be caught up in a kind of starry-eyed idealism that would put him out of touch with the workaday world.
While many may question his almost casual relinquishing of Alice to Dahlberg’s arms, much can be said for the kind of emotional maturity he displays in realizing that having to let go is one of the risks in any relationship.
Many novelists have used a writer as protagonist, and the result is often excessively self-conscious. In contrast, Morris’s portrait of the artist is wry, low-key, and unpretentious yet thoroughly convincing. There is very little talk about writing in the course of the novel, but through Kelcey the reader sees the world as a writer sees it.
Equally adept is Morris’s portrait of Dahlberg. While many writers may have been satisfied with sketching the housepainter as a one-dimensional eccentric, Morris is not content to present Dahlberg as a mechanical figure that merely advances the plot. Though readers may be put off by Dahlberg’s rude and inconsiderate ways, they learn in time that this...
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