The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The characters of Fearing’s novel range from fairly stock figures of hard-boiled fiction, such as Steve Hagen and Pauline Delos, to the unclassifiable raucous individuality of Louise Patterson, the artist. None of the characters seems to achieve any self-knowledge that ultimately matters. Although the characters philosophize to some extent, they are caught in webs of varying degrees of cynicism and self-delusion.

George Stroud, like many hard-boiled characters, is not particularly likable; however, the reader empathizes with the terrible irony of his position. Stroud’s cynicism and apparent dissatisfaction with modern life are evinced by his constant job changes and continual desire for more money. He assumes that he will move to a bigger house in a better neighborhood, and he spends his time figuring out how to ask for more money. He expresses no regret at the death of the woman with whom he has been sleeping; his only concern is for himself. His moral position is questionable on all counts, yet the reader sympathizes with his plight. If the reader does not cheer when George gets out of his predicament, it is only because he is, in truth, rather despicable. Although he did not commit murder, he seems capable of it, even if Janoth sees him as all intellect. His most interesting characteristic is his ability, although those around him are blind, to see into and through the painting of Louise Patterson to its truth.

Earl Janoth is a business...

(The entire section is 489 words.)