Nathan Zuckerman, the protagonist, a successful writer and author of the notorious best-selling novelCarnovsky. For eighteen months, he has been suffering inexplicably from extreme neck and back pains that prevent him from extensive reading and even from writing, though he feels he has nothing left to write about. To make matters worse, he has turned forty. He lives alone, and to help ease his pain he not only drinks and smokes marijuana but also has a bevy of four girlfriends who visit him at different times and cater to his needs, including his sexual needs. Finally, in desperation, he decides to give up writing and become a doctor.
Robert (Bobby) Freytag
Robert (Bobby) Freytag, Nathan’s college chum who is now a successful anesthesiologist in Chicago. Nathan flies to Chicago to consult with him about applying to medical school. Bobby’s mother died three weeks earlier, and at the cemetery with Bobby’s aggrieved father, Nathan loses his head (he has been taking too much Percodan and drinking vodka), attacks the old man, and falls on a gravestone, fracturing his skull and sustaining other injuries.
Henry Zuckerman, Nathan’s younger brother, who believes that Carnovsky was a terrible affront to American Jews in general and to the Zuckerman family in particular. He holds Nathan responsible for hastening the death of their father,...
(The entire section is 566 words.)