Who are the characters in The Falls by George Saunders?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hello! You asked who the main characters are in George Saunders' "The Falls".

This short story has two main characters: Morse, a self-doubting family man, and Aldo Cummings, who fancies himself becoming a famous writer one day.

Both men walk past each other; Morse is at first afraid that Cummings would 'collar him' when they pass each other, but Cummings can't be bothered with the insignificant Morse. He considers Morse beneath his notice, a 'nervous wage slave,' 'a dullard in corporate pants,' and a lemming who worked in 'moribund cubicles while comparing...stocks and bonds between bouts of tedious lawn mowing...' Both men hold in contempt the 'low' status of the other. Although outwardly Morse seems to be a humble and unassuming man compared to the arrogant Cummings, both actually share something in common:low self-esteem. While Morse indulges in self-pitying fantasies, Cummings indulges in daydreams of grandeur and self-aggrandizement. Their sometimes self-absorbed private worlds allow them to salvage some comfort from the daily struggles of life. Both seem perpetually dissatisfied largely because both lack motivation and self discipline.

Cummings likes to think himself an eloquent expert of the English language (he likes to use big words and flowery expressions), but he can't be bothered to actually put on paper his 'eloquent' musings.

That was some good stuff, if only he could remember it through the rest of his stroll and the coming storm, to scrawl in a passionate hand in his yellow pad.

While Morse knows himself to be 'timid of conflict, conciliatory to a fault, pathetically gullible,' Cummings has no such self-doubt burdening his soul.  Morse is afraid that he just might bungle the girls' rescue attempt; he fantasizes that some 'sweaty, decisive men' are already on the scene and that he would just be sent to make a phone call. But what if he can't even get that right? Then, he scolds himself for 'predestining failure via negativity.' He tries to imagine a better scenario where he assists the burly men and goes home in a bandage, 'causing Ruth to regard him in a more favorable sexual light' whereby they would then 'stay up all night celebrating his new manhood and exchanging sweet words between bouts of energetic lovemaking.' Then, he chastises himself for thinking of love-making at such a time with 'children's lives at stake.' Cummings, on the other hand, is rendered impotent straight away.

...he stumbled over the berm uncertainly, looking for help but finding only a farm field of tall dry corn.

In the end, it is Morse who plunges himself into the water to save the girls. Morse, who remembers that his son's piano had to be repossessed and that his wife once had an infatuation for their son's Karate instructor, is now doing what he has always done, despite all his inadequacies: he, a family man who has always 'subjugated his petty personal desires for the good of his family' would once more subjugate all his private fears to save two strangers.

Thanks for the question!

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The Falls

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