Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 412
Lou Donovan, one of two philandering businessmen who are the focus of the novel. The forty-one-year-old’s activities in the hotel business keep him traveling almost constantly, primarily between his Chicago base and New York City. At home, he is mostly faithful to his aristocratic wife, Mary. On the road, he consorts with party girls before becoming entangled with the manipulative Trina Kameray. Lou is also haunted by the compromising presence of Francie, his first wife, whom he has kept secret from Mary. Lou grows during the course of the novel, becoming cynical about both business and romance.
Jay Oliver, Lou’s comrade in business and adultery. Nagged at home by the shrewish Flo, he relaxes in New York with the more worldly, glamorous Ebie. When one of Lou’s ventures fails to be realized and Jay’s business suffers, he leaves Flo for Ebie.
Ebie Vane, a successful commercial artist. She once intended to be a serious artist but turns her back on Greenwich Village for the comforts of Park Avenue. Bored by the sameness of her bohemian friends, she is drawn to Jay, despite his vulgarity, because he is different. She eventually settles for a life of leisure in rural Connecticut, giving up her identity to serve Jay’s wishes.
Mary Harrod Donovan
Mary Harrod Donovan, Lou’s wife and mother of their small daughter. Twelve years younger than her husband, the plain, rather severe Mary is attracted to her social and psychological opposite for complex reasons and chooses to ignore his indiscretions. Impulsively accompanying Lou and the Olivers to a nightclub, she becomes more aware of the type of woman to whom he is attracted and shocks everyone by becoming such a person. Mary exhibits the extremes to which a wife will go when she loves a husband who neglects her.
Trina Kameray, an earthy, sophisticated European refugee. She seems to embody everything that both Lou’s wife and girlfriends lack. She torments Lou by refusing to hide her affairs with his business associate and others. Trina uses her intelligence, ambition, and sexuality to get what she wants.
Flo Oliver, Jay’s harridan wife. Despite her many flaws, Flo inspires sympathy because of the ways Jay ignores and mistreats her.
Francie, Lou’s first wife, emblematic of Lou’s meager beginnings and bad taste. She comes to Chicago with her gambler husband to beg Lou for a loan.
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