The Characters

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 467

At the end of The Killing Ground , Settle suggests that there are repetitions of character-types throughout history. In that human motivations are certainly limited in number, though unlimited in particular combinations, this point seems logical. One strain which she sees throughout history is that of rebellion against the status...

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At the end of The Killing Ground, Settle suggests that there are repetitions of character-types throughout history. In that human motivations are certainly limited in number, though unlimited in particular combinations, this point seems logical. One strain which she sees throughout history is that of rebellion against the status quo. In Prisons, Jonathan Church left his home rather than submit to his father, then died rather than submit to Cromwell and his henchmen. In The Killing Ground, Jake Catlett struck out at Johnny McKarkle because Johnny represented rule by wealth and social position. At the end of The Killing Ground, Settle includes among these restless spirits Hannah Bridewell of O Beulah Land, the Provincial captain Jonathan Lacey, troubled Johnny Catlett of Know Nothing, the Italian scapegoat Carlo Michele and intelligent Eddie Pagano from The Scapegoat, and idealistic Lily from the same book. At the end of The Killing Ground, Hannah McKarkle realizes that she is like those characters in her independent spirit and in her need for freedom. Throughout the novels, such characters are contrasted with other types—the unprincipled, such as Cromwell and Charlie Bland; the cruel, such as Lewis Catlett and Captain Daniel Chester Neill; the pampered and petty, such as Sally Lacey in O Beulah Land, Sally Lacey in Know Nothing, and the clubwomen in the final novel; and the weak, such as Beverley Lacey in The Scapegoat and Brandon Lacey in Know Nothing. Although none of her characters is exactly like another, Settle’s repetition of types suggests that human qualities, as well as human choices, are repeated again and again in history. Settle reveals the inner lives of her characters by skillful shifts in point of view. Even in Prisons and The Killing Ground, the two works which are primarily written in the first person and concentrate on the perceptions of a single character, there are sections that move to other characters. The Scapegoat begins with Mary Rose Lacey, speaking in the first person with childish candor. Just as the reader has begun to accept Mary Rose’s vision of reality as certainly more accurate than that of the adults around her, however, Settle switches to limited omniscience, moving from one character to another, and later once again has a first-person account, this time from Mary Rose’s sister Ann Althea Lacey, who says that Mary Rose never tells the truth but invents and believes her own reality. The complex handling of point of view is a characteristic of Settle’s fiction. It is a tribute to her craftsmanship that the reader is not confused as to whose mind is being exposed, whether in the first or in the third person, and the changes of perspective, like the repetition of character-types, produce a richness of texture like that of a Gobelin tapestry.

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