Jacob Horner, the narrator of the novel, a thirty-year-old academic who has completed his course work and passed the oral exams for a master’s degree in English at The Johns Hopkins University. Stricken by an inexplicable paralysis in the Baltimore bus station, Horner is rescued by the Doctor, who puts him through a course of bizarre therapies and then dispatches him to teach grammar at the Wicomico State Teachers College on the eastern shore of Maryland. Horner, a thoroughly existentialist man, has no fixed beliefs and no real persona; as he admits, his life is a succession of roles, many of them contradictory. He is capable of holding two conflicting ideas simultaneously. Horner responds to the immediate situation and, left to himself, is capable of sinking into mere existence because he has no true inner self.
Joe Morgan, a man in his early thirties who teaches ancient, European, and American history at Wicomico State Teachers College. Described by Horner as a “tall, bespectacled, athletic young man, terribly energetic,” Morgan clearly is a star at the backwater college. He has a bachelor’s degree in literature and a master’s in philosophy from Columbia University, and he has completed all work toward his Ph.D. in history, except for his dissertation, at The Johns Hopkins University. In contrast to Horner, Morgan has a definite philosophy, which he claims is thoroughly pragmatic...
(The entire section is 557 words.)