Clinton Williams, the viewpoint character and narrator of portions of the story through his journal. He is approximately sixteen years old during most of the action in the novel. Like Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951), he is perceptive and articulate, but he is far more idealistic and gullible. Clinton, a romantic, experiences emotional liberation through his painful epiphany. Although he wants to be a writer, he cannot produce anything except verbatim transcriptions of other people’s speech and correspondence because he has not yet learned how to synthesize his experience. The story primarily concerns his liberation from bondage to illusions, accomplished through his insights into his brother Berry-berry’s true character. There is a strong suggestion that Clinton’s adoration of Berry-berry has homosexual overtones and that the story really is about the disenchanted protagonist’s attainment of freedom to form a wholesome heterosexual relationship when he finds an appropriate love object.
Ralph Williams, Clinton’s father, who was a political activist and dynamic personality in his youth. He appears to have been emasculated by a dull marriage and his effort to maintain middle-class respectability. He deals in real estate but does not do well at it because of his anticapitalist sentiments and his chronic depression. He is a heavy solitary drinker. He feels despised and rejected because both Clinton and his wife, Annabel, have directed all their love toward the rebellious, charismatic Berry-berry. Ralph stands in sharp contrast to Berry-berry, who has no respect for convention or...
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