Martha Quest, 1952
Martha Quest, the protagonist. Her name is symbolic: “Martha” echoes the biblical character of that name, known for service, and “Quest” represents her search for meaning. the book begins when she is fifteen years old, imagining a “four-gated city” that will be the utopia where all can live happily. She wishes to avoid standard female roles but winds up in a traditional marriage.
May Quest, Martha’s mother, who represents what Martha does not want to become: a nagging old woman who tries to live through her children because the sex roles of society have not given her any opportunity to make anything of herself.
Douglas Knowell, Martha’s first husband, who represents Martha’s areas of ambivalence. She feels some affection for him but sees him more as an avenue of escape from her parents than as an agent of entrapment in the roles of wife and mother. He seems interesting and imaginative but turns out to be shallow and traditional in his views.
Adolph King, a Jewish radical with whom Martha has her first affair.