In 1987, while working on A Southern Family, Godwin wrote "All my protagonists . . . disguised by gender or species, occupation or social class or hardly disguised at all—are parts of myself." This novel, apparently written in response to a shattering event in Godwin's own family, has at least eight protagonists—and, if we believe Godwin's statement, each one is a part of its author. The central figure, Theo Quick, dies before page eighty of this six-hundred page book, after he has spoken for himself in only scattered bits of dialogue. The remaining seven major characters—Theo's half sister, Clare; his estranged wife, Snow; his brother, Rafe; his mother and father, Lily and Ralph; Clare's boyfriend, Felix; and her best friend, Julia—spend the rest of the book searching for keys to Theo, and, in doing so, they learn a great deal about themselves and reveal even more to the reader. At the same time, they all examine class and, of course, the Southern family.
Theo was a gentle and confused young man who alternated between charming and repelling those he should have loved and those who should have loved him. At twenty-eight, he had yet to find a satisfying direction for his life (not all that unusual in the Quick family), and his only passion was his son Jason. During the last twenty-four hours before he takes his own life in a dramatic murder/suicide, he speaks with each of the other protagonists, and in each case, what he said would be...
(The entire section is 1116 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of A Southern Family Characters. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!