Ellen Thatcher, the character who helps keep together the amorphous plot of the novel. She is an actress who lives through chaotic times, America just before and after World War I. She becomes a success as an actress, a failure as a woman. She is married three times, but never to the one man she loves.
Jimmy Herf, an arrival from Europe who comes to New York with his widowed mother; she dies shortly after their arrival. He is unhappy and tries to find himself. He works on a newspaper before the war and does Red Cross work with Ellen in Europe during the hostilities. He and Ellen marry and have a child, but they drift apart. Still confused but happy, he leaves New York.
George Baldwin, a cautious, intelligent lawyer and a ruthless, self-centered opportunist. He steers a shrewd course through New York City politics, but proves his emotional immaturity in his affairs with women. He is Ellen’s third husband, whom she marries not out of love but because of apathy.
Joe Harland, Herf’s blacksheep relative who, having won and lost several fortunes in Wall Street, finally settles for a job as a night watchman in order to earn whiskey money.
Gus McNiel, a milkman who, through the good work done by George Baldwin, wins a financial settlement after he has been run over by...
(The entire section is 551 words.)