The Characters (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
The characters of Shields’s novel most often are fully realized individuals but are most important in revealing facets of Daisy.
Daisy Goodwill Hoad Flett is the ultimately unknowable center of the book, a mystery who is explained, commented on, and loved by her friends and family. Shields, with a touch of Magical Realism, uses Daisy’s point of view to describe her own birth as well as her parents’ courtship and early married life, providing details unknowable to her. Daisy’s life is colored by the sadness of her birth, a unique and orphaned memory with which Daisy feels burdened during her middle and later years. Her unknowable center is emphasized by Shields via Daisy’s close relationship to her college friends Fraidy and Beans. They are great friends, but she does not tell them about her sneeze in the moment before her first husband, Harold A. Hoad, fell out of the hotel window. Daisy withholds her essential self from all those the reader expects to be closest to her.
Cuyler Goodwill is Daisy’s father, a man who knew a loveless childhood but develops a passionate attachment to Mercy Stone Goodwill, Daisy’s mother. Cuyler works in stone, whereas Daisy gardens and cooks. Cuyler develops the kind of love and passion his daughter misses all of her life. He is, however, like his daughter in his ability to present representations of life; his excellent speaking skills, for example, are displayed at Daisy’s graduation from...
(The entire section is 512 words.)
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Daisy Goodwill, our primary narrator in The Stone Diaries, realized early in life that "if she was going to hold on to her life at all, she would have to rescue it by a primary act of imagination." She synthesizes and edits events, and fantasizes the rest, serving as a witness to her own life and creating an "autobiography" compiled from legends, letters, speculation, contemplation, vagueness, and even outright avoidance of certain events. Often Daisy herself is left out of the story. There are no photographs of her, no letters from her, no gardening columns written by her. Sometimes information is given that Daisy is unlikely to have known, but Shields provides many voices and viewpoints representing Daisy's fantasies of what other people imagine about her. These witnesses, such as the neighbor Clarentine Flett, the Jewish peddler, Abram Gozhde Skutari, the newspaper editor, Jay Dudley, often provide a different vantage point on the events to validate them in a way. While their role is minor in most cases, Shields is careful to point out the coincidences that link individuals. Skutari, for example, who discovers Daisy's mother in labor and calls the neighbor in the first chapter is the very same fellow who later sold the bike that ran into Clarentine causing her death.
Shields's empathy for even her ignorant, small-minded characters such as Magnus Flett, Daisy's inexpressive father- in-law, reminds us that no one is all bad, or all good, or all...
(The entire section is 572 words.)
See Labina Anthony Greene Dukes Kavanaugh
Alice Flett Downing
Oldest child of Barker and Daisy Flett, Alice Flett marries Ben Downing and moves to England, where the couple has three children, Benjamin, Judy, and Rachel. Later, the marriage falters and Alice and Ben separate. Alice takes Daisy's maiden name, Goodwill, as her last name after the divorce is final.
Jay W. Dudley
Jay W. Dudley is editor of the Ottawa Recorder, which publishes a column, "Mr. Green Thumb," written by Barker Flett. After Barker dies, the column is renamed, "Mrs. Green Thumb," and is written by Daisy Flett. Jay Dudley becomes socially and sexually involved with the widowed Daisy Flett and then abruptly ends the relationship. He replaces her as author of the "Green Thumb" column with a full-time employee, James (called Pinky) Fulham, claiming company policy in doing so. The suspicion is he uses this opportunity to distance himself from Daisy Flett. The sudden loss of this relationship and her work puts Daisy into a long-term depression.
Barker T. Flett
The oldest son of Magnus and Clarentine Flett, Barker Flett was born in 1883. He earns a master's degree in science and becomes a professor of biology at Wesley College in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His students wonder at his remaining a bachelor, suspecting him to be "one of those men who feel...
(The entire section is 2348 words.)