The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Arthur Winner, Jr., a middle-class, middle-aged, dispassionate man, has tried to live his life in the light of reason, patterned after his father—“the nearly unique individual; the Man, if not perfectly, at least predominantly, of Reason.” Ruled by a strong sense of duty and responsibility, he serves his community, law practice, church, and family. In the space of an afternoon, he deals with the problems of his distressed secretary, Helen, her brother Ralph’s rape case and bail jumping, court opinion imputing ineptness by his law partner Noah Tuttle, a cherished tree struck by lightning, a lesbian Catholic proselytizer, the discovery that his love affair with his partner Julius Penrose’s wife is no secret, and a disgruntled choir director. Winner’s brother-in-law Fred Dealey remarks: “You’re really a kind of universal fall guy, Arthur! They all come to you! Philosophy and religion assure me that fall guy’ is the righteous man’s other name.” Winner is proud of his ability to order other people’s lives and problems, and his sense of security and complacency in his power in his personal life is an extension of his professional life. He is a product of his profession. Only through deep contemplation of his failure as a father with his son Warren and his weakness in participating in a passionate affair does his sense of complacency become shaken. He is further humbled by his inability to prevent Helen Detweiler’s suicide and his realization of Noah Tuttle’s unethical professional activities. The Arthur Winner at the end of the novel is no longer secure in his power to rule by reason.

Noah Tuttle has reached the age of senility, and his brilliant law career is coming to a sad end with his secretary and partners covering for his lapses of memory—at least that is what Arthur Winner thinks until he discovers the misappropriation of funds that was prompted by Tuttle’s magnanimous concern for the...

(The entire section is 790 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Arthur Winner, Jr.

Arthur Winner, Jr., a lawyer. He has lived his fifty-four years in Brocton, a small county seat town near the Delaware Valley. He is highly respected in his profession, his church, and his community for his wisdom, capable advice, and willingness to serve. He has been married twice, first at the age of twenty-five to Hope Tuttle, who died in childbirth eight years before the time of the story. Of their children, Warren is dead from a foolish training accident in World War II, Lawrence is a tax lawyer in Washington, and Ann is a teenager living at home under the tutelage of Clarissa, Arthur’s second wife, to whom he has been married for four years. He has modeled his life on his deceased father, the “Man of Reason,” yet his life is tempered by love of family, friends, and Brocton’s institutions. In his legal work and personal relationships, he contends with the circumstances into which his clients have been placed by their inability to control passions and emotions, an inability referred to as their “possessions” by these forces. At the end of the novel, he struggles with the degree of his responsibility for an adulterous affair with Marjorie Penrose, for Helen Detweiler’s suicide, and for consequences of his discovery of Noah Tuttle’s illegal acts. Though weary, he resolves that he will continue to pit reason and strength against the tangles of passion and to be content with inevitable compromises.

Noah Tuttle

Noah Tuttle, the dean of the local law profession. He is eighty-two years old, grumpy, and failing in health and memory. He strongly resists the moral standards of the present generation. A distinguished scholar of estate and trust management and for forty years the partner of Arthur Winner, Sr., he is now senior partner of the firm of Tuttle, Winner, and Penrose. Because he has been trusted and respected for his administration of many local trusts, it is shocking...

(The entire section is 800 words.)