Study Guide

Heartburn

by Nora Ephron

Heartburn Characters

Characters Discussed (Great Characters in Literature)

Rachel Samstat

Rachel Samstat, the narrator/protagonist, a thirty-eight-year-old cookbook writer and mother married to Mark Feldman, a syndicated columnist who is having an affair with another woman. Rachel (modeled on Ephron herself) discovers the affair when she is seven months pregnant. She flees to New York City when Mark informs her that he is in love with Thelma Rice. Despite the humiliation, Rachel still loves Mark, a feeling she cannot understand or justify but one she views with comic detachment as she reexamines her two failed marriages, her relationship with her parents and friends, her cookbooks, and her pregnancy, all the while suffering from “terminal heartburn.” Rachel suspects that her cooking is to blame for Mark’s affair because cooking has become her way of saying “I love you,” and it is not sufficient for a man who is very sexual. She earns the reader’s sympathy with her self-deprecating humor as she deals with the vagaries of life in two of America’s largest cities. Rachel is the only fully rounded character in the novel.

Mark Feldman

Mark Feldman, Rachel’s husband, a syndicated columnist loosely based on Carl Bernstein, the celebrated Watergate investigator. He has a black beard with a small white stripe on the left side of his chin. His affair with Thelma Rice has been going on since Rachel became pregnant, and he was unfaithful to Rachel even before their marriage. Mark not only...

(The entire section is 532 words.)