Ed Gentry, the vice president of his own advertising firm. Ed’s boredom frightens him enough to take the trip to the wilderness. He is tempted several times to stay home or to go home rather than to deal with the problems that arise during the canoe trip. Ed’s philosophy of life is called “sliding,” which is continually taking the path of least resistance. Ed, however, is dying emotionally, and he knows it. This insufficiency or void in the middle of his existence is more frightening than the potential terrors of the wilderness. On the trip, he discovers what has been lying deep in his unconscious, namely, his potential to become one with nature and to abandon the laws of civilization. When he is forced to become the hero or die with the others in the woods, Ed is able to find the strength of will to kill another man. He is also able to cover up the murder when questioned at length by the police. Ed’s life is changed by the experience he has on the trip, but the changes remain internal. The river stays with him in his dreams and finds expression in his art. After this experience, he is no longer bored because he can see himself in a mythological way.
Lewis Medlock, a survivalist who earns his living managing rental property. Ed, Drew, and Bobby are ambivalent about going down a river without any experience or knowledge, but Lewis, who functions as both herald and helper for the trip,...
(The entire section is 577 words.)