The Characters (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Enid Stevick, the central character in You Must Remember This, is another of Oates’s intelligent, talented young scholar heroines. Enid is by turns cold and fragile; like Connie in the story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?,” Enid has two sides to her personality. There is Enid Stevick, shy, intelligent, Roman Catholic, a model student, always receiving high grades. The other side of Enid is “Angel-face,” the daring, conniving, sensual side. “Angel-face,” with the encouragement of some older girls, is a shoplifter, and, repeating “Why not?” about the affair, propels Enid into the passionate but destructive relationship with her handsome young Uncle Felix.
Felix Stevick is the most vibrant character in the novel. He is an extremely attractive former prizefighter. Felix is an outsider, troubled by his illegitimate birth and the suicide of his father. Felix exercises an instinct for self-destructive violence. This impulse to self-destructive behavior in Felix is what attracts him to Enid after her attempted suicide and leads him to continue their obsessive, incestuous affair. Felix is attractive but lonely and alienated, seeing himself an outsider except in the prizefight ring or in his lover’s arms.
Warren Stevick is the brother of Enid, the only male in a family of three sisters. He served in the Korean War and was seriously wounded. During his struggle to survive, Warren had an epiphany. Always helpful and considerate of others, he realized that his mission in the future must be to help others. In his idealistic political journey, he becomes a pacifist, then serves on an unsuccessful Adlai Stevenson presidential campaign, and finally works for Children’s Aid in a Philadelphia slum neighborhood. In his contacts with his favorite sister, Enid, he makes perceptive statements applying to the central themes of the book.
Lyle Stevick is the bookish head of the Stevick family, father to Enid, Warren, and their two sisters. Lyle has a dead-end job as the owner of a secondhand furniture store. He worries about government corruption and fears enemy bombs; his main obsession is building a backyard bomb shelter. His worries typify, although in a ludicrous fashion, the worries of many people in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.
Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Enid Maria Stevick
Enid Maria Stevick, the youngest daughter of Hannah and Lyle Stevick. Although only fifteen years old, she embarks on a clandestine love affair, with her father’s half brother Felix. This secret, obsessional relationship undermines her already precarious sense of self, which is split into two parts. The first self is Enid Maria, the “A” student, obedient daughter, and talented musician; the second self is called “Angel-face” and is a wild, daring sensualist whose erotic wishes draw her closer and closer to madness and death. As a result of her split personality, Enid is drawn to the charismatic Felix as if by powers beyond her control. It is Angel-face who is attracted to transgression, criminality, and sneaky thrills. She grows in power and knowledge during the affair with the dangerous, violent Felix. This is an intense sexual relationship from which cruelty is inseparable and that overcomes Enid as a kind of sickness. She is thrown into even greater turmoil when she discovers that she is pregnant and must undergo an abortion. When Felix breaks off the relationship, Enid attempts suicide. Enid Maria emerges from this traumatic episode determined to flee her small town and is admitted into a prestigious Rochester music school. It is the Angel-face side of herself who keeps various memories of the dark side of life in Port Oriskany and who tells Enid what must be remembered from the world she leaves behind.
Felix Stevick, the younger half brother of Lyle. A former professional prizefighter, Felix has a history of aggression and criminality. He had to quit the ring because he could not master his fear of death, and his character has been shaped by his experience as a boxer. For Felix, boxing means living on a purely instinctual, physical level and allowing all of his...
(The entire section is 760 words.)