The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Rogers, the historical protagonist, and Towne, the fictitious protagonist and narrator, are both well-rounded figures who drive the story’s events and, secondarily, reflect thematic concerns. Characteristically, Roberts contrasts an action-oriented historical hero with a fictional narrator of disparate temperament who establishes a direct relationship with the reader.

The courageous and resourceful Rogers takes center stage in part 1’s wartime setting and reveals himself as a superior military leader. In part 2, Rogers becomes the victim of betrayal, hamstrung and discredited by greedy superiors who consider him a threat to their plans for a Great Lakes inland fiefdom. They imprison and unsuccessfully court-martial Rogers on bogus charges; he is acquitted but left without money or reputation. Out of wartime, Rogers displays shortcomings of character and judgment ranging from womanizing and drunkenness to the incurring of debt, all of which are described by the narrator. He snatches Towne’s young love Elizabeth, attempts to seduce Ann Potter, and becomes an indigent drunkard in debtor’s prison. Yet for all of his faults, Rogers emerges as a tragic hero, imperfect to be sure, but a victim less of himself than of others.

Contrasted to Rogers, Towne begins as an inexperienced, sensitive, middle-class gentleman and artist who goes to war only because circumstances force him. Awed by Rogers, he develops self-discipline and survival skills on...

(The entire section is 497 words.)