The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Since Beyond the Bedroom Wall is a novel of condition rather than a novel of character, it contains very little sense of character development. In addition, Woiwode treats doing as a form of being. Therefore, the novel contains little investigation of motive, not very much introspection, and seems, in general, to be resistant to the concept of the psychological man. As though to make the resistance explicit, a feature of Charles’s alienated life as a newlywed in New York is that he is “deep in analysis.”

On the other hand, Woiwode also resists the depiction of his characters as stereotyped pillars of society. The characters’ personalities are too quirky and require too many outlets of expression to be pigeonholed: Variety and idiosyncrasy are their middle names, and it is one of the author’s most impressive achievements that the novel is too densely populated with clearly visible, diverting, and widely differing characters.

The Neumillers are the predominant representatives of character conceived as erratic, copious, and different. Martin is the model upon which his wife and family are based. In his longings, his impatience, his kindness, and his energy, he embodies a wonderful zest for life, without in any sense being presented as a superman or even as a conventional hero. Martin is all the more impressive because he has little awareness of, or interest in, his own uniqueness. Moreover, his distinctiveness is most readily...

(The entire section is 493 words.)