As the novel begins, Sam is portrayed as a lonely man, “waiting for something” to shake him out of an unwonted lethargy. His relationship with Carla, and the various states of passion he experiences because of her, are crucial to his redemption as a man.
Possessed of a healthy sexuality, Sam finds Carla to be a willing and seductive partner. Yet he succumbs to jealousy when she seems to treat him with the habitual Roman “indifference” to his deeper needs. His jealousy turns to altruism as he conceives of himself as her protector, her “master,” who shall rehabilitate her and lead her to self-respect. More and more, though, his generosity becomes paternalistic, resistant to the fact that Carla is capable of looking after herself. Their relationship fires his long-dormant ambition to return to his painting. While covering the religious ceremonies, Sam is impressed by Carla’s devoutness, and her feelings seem to parallel his own aesthetic outlook. Finally, like John Milton’s Samson Agonistes of 1671 (“And calm of mind, all passion spent”), Sam is released from his psychological or deal of attachment to Carla. While he is hardly complex, Sam is not a shallow character, and the reader can easily empathize with his situation.
Carla is more shadowily portrayed. The degradation of her early life, her subsequent climb to near stardom in the seedy purlieus of American show business, and the mutual humiliation of her affair...
(The entire section is 434 words.)