Eliot Nailles, a middle-aged chemist turned advertising man whose current project is the promotion of a mouthwash called Spang. He lives in the “village” of Bullet Park, a suburb of New York City, where he works. He loves his wife and son in a desperate and finally futile way, wishing to impart to them a sense of the blessedness of autumn leaves and thunder but not quite knowing how to do so. He is baffled by the affluence of Bullet Park and the “modern conveniences” of television, liquor, and, finally, drugs. He succeeds in saving Tony, his son, from Paul Hammer’s murderous machinations and in bringing about an apparent return to normalcy on the part of his family. In the book’s final paragraph, however, he is drugged and blankly “happy.”
Paul Hammer, a middle-aged man who is independently wealthy and who moves with his wife, Marietta Hammer, to Bullet Park and becomes a neighbor of the Nailles family. He appears initially to be eccentric and proves finally to be psychotic. He has traveled the world in search of images that will lay to rest a constant malaise that he refers to as hiscafard and bête noire. The most prominent of these images is a yellow room. Hammer eventually occupies such a room somewhere outside the city, but he has it tarnished by his “bewitching” wife, who paints it after Hammer has lost faith in its ennobling powers. Arrived in Bullet Park, Hammer decides to authenticate himself by some bizarre act; he subsequently plans to immolate Tony Nailles on the altar of Christ Church in Bullet Park. After being thwarted in this attempt by a chainsaw-wielding Eliot Nailles, Hammer is sent to a mental institution.
Nellie Nailles, the middle-aged wife of Eliot Nailles. She is loved by her husband, principally on the basis of her radiant thighs. She appears initially to be the stabilizing...
(The entire section is 800 words.)