Frank Cahill is a newly blind, self-sufficient, irascible individual who has been a loner all of his life. Even his marriage, recounted in flashbacks, never brought him close to his wife. She left him while pregnant, and he never tried to contact her or his child until he received the military telegram. Dickey portrays a very unsympathetic character, a cursed, blind Oedipal figure searching not for a father but for a son. He finds some measure of salvation and meaning to life in his quest to understand Joel’s life and death.
Zack, Cahill’s constant companion, is a large, black, wolflike dog that everybody fears, and with good reason. Untrained and newly acquired because of Cahill’s sudden blindness, Zack attains mythical proportions. Afraid of nothing, the canine attacks an air cadet, kills a marauding pack of wild dogs, and is finally stopped only by whirling propellers at the novel’s end. Cahill carries the dog’s head in his hands in a rousing conclusion to the bloody carnage at the Latham Field graduation ceremonies.
Joel Cahill, Frank’s son, is never seen but is described by most all the other characters. Dickey portrays him as a Shelley-like figure, enigmatic, brilliant, and defiant. He is also cruel, and he creates and leads a dictatorial military unit. He dies (or mysteriously disappears) and remains to the reader a creepy, sadistic character.
Boyd McClendon is the garrulous, whiskey-drinking owner of a...
(The entire section is 490 words.)