The Blood of the Lamb Characters
by Peter De Vries

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The Blood of the Lamb Characters

Don Wanderhope is the son of Calvinist Dutch immigrants. He grew up in Chicago spends his time working for his father's garbage-collection business. Don's parents are very religious, but he has doubts about the divine. Throughout his life, Don experiences happiness and hardship, including the death of his wife and daughter and a strong case of tuberculosis. Eventually, he decides that there is no higher power, and the true power lies within humanity.

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Ben Wanderhope is Don's father. He practices Calvinism, which includes the belief in predestination. Ben, too, has doubts, though. A series of events rekindles Ben's faith, but it does not quell his severe depression. Eventually, Ben is institutionalized.

Louie Wanderhope is Don's older brother, who passed away. He was pursuing a medical degree at the University of Chicago; while on his deathbed, he told his family that he had "no doubts" about what was awaiting him after death. Don believes Louie believed in nothing, while the others take the statement as a profession of belief.

Greta Wigbaldy is Don's wife. After their wedding, Greta's mental state becomes increasingly unstable. She develops alcoholism, has a series of affairs, and eventually commits suicide.

Carol Wanderhope is Don and Greta's daughter, who is diagnosed with leukemia. After her death, Don's finds a recording Carol made confessing that she knew she was ill long before she told them.

Rena Baker is a woman Don meets while receiving treatment for tuberculosis. She is a devout Calvinist, but her piety is challenged when she and Don develop feelings for one another. She dies during an operation before she and Don can consummate their love.

The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Though De Vries is skilled at creating comic caricatures, Don Wanderhope is clearly at the center of the novel. An immigrant’s son from a poor and unpromising Dutch family, his principal motivation is to become successful enough to enjoy some of the benefits of the good life. Yet he is thwarted by a series of personal and family calamities. Wanderhope, as his name suggests, is born to wander (away from his childhood religion, in search of other consolations) and to hope (for some respite from the suffering meted out to himself and those he loves). A secular pilgrim, he chooses the comfortable path of an advertising career, but he is still beset by heartaches in his private life—Louie’s and Rena Baker’s deaths, his wife’s suicide, and finally, Carol’s death from leukemia.

A modern Job, he faces many temptations to his faith, and like Job, he is too honest to accept the easy answers of orthodoxy; but unlike Job, suffering does not deepen but diminishes his faith. For as Wanderhope comments at one point, “there seems to be little support in reality for the popular view that we are mellowed by suffering. Happiness mellows us, not troubles; pleasure, perhaps, even more than happiness.”

Carol Wanderhope, his daughter, is depicted as a graceful, charming, and vibrant girl, with blue eyes and straight blonde hair, an impish grin, and remarkable courage and fortitude. She is no doubt modeled after De Vries’s own daughter Emily, who also died of leukemia. Carol becomes the center of her father’s life after Greta’s suicide, and he lavishes such intense love upon her that one almost senses a foreboding of loss. She also becomes the focal point of her father’s faith and belief. Once her disease is diagnosed, she courageously endures the long and painful treatment for leukemia, and when her death finally comes, it is a shock, though not unexpected. Carol shows a wisdom beyond her years in her understanding of her father, especially in the tape-recorded message that she leaves for him after her death, and in her ability to bring joy and happiness to others despite her affliction. De Vries captures all the charm of her girlish mannerisms with great affection and care in making her an unforgettable character.

Greta Wanderhope, Don’s wife, on the other hand, is in many ways an...

(The entire section is 1,194 words.)