The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Gary Harkness does a lot of thinking about himself and his teammates: “Some of us were more simple than others; a few might might be called outcasts or exiles; three or four, as on every football team, were crazy. But we were all—even myself—we were all dedicated.” Gary numbers himself among the exiles, often wondering what he is doing in the “summer tundra” of west Texas. He is in west Texas as a last resort, having dropped out of four previous universities. He was an all-state halfback at his New York high school, pushed to do his best by an eager father, and received twenty-eight scholarship offers.

Gary’s first school was Syracuse University, from which he was dismissed when he holed up in his room for two days “with two packages of Oreo cookies and a girl named Lippy Margolis.” At Penn State, everything went well until monotony set in and he quit attending practices, at which time he was given inspirational lectures on the need to sacrifice and on football as a microcosm of life. Nothing availing, Gary went home to the Adirondacks and toughed out the winter before enrolling at the University of Miami, where his new interest in nuclear catastrophe depressed him so badly that he went home again. In his next gridiron incarnation, at Michigan State University, he was doing fine until one day he and two teammates converged brutally on an Indiana safetyman. The safetyman died the next day, and Gary went home and sat in his room for seven weeks.

Given this...

(The entire section is 613 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Gary Harkness

Gary Harkness, a star halfback for Logos College in western Texas. The talented Gary, in his early twenties, goes to Logos College after personal anxieties had destroyed his athletic career at Syracuse, Pennsylvania State, Miami, and Michigan State universities. He seems cursed by a terminal case of spiritual sloth generated by his sense of the world’s meaninglessness, a despair that is intensified by his preoccupation at Logos with vivid hallucinations of nuclear catastrophe. Only in the structured patterns enacted on the football field does he find any order in existence (“sport is a benign illusion, the illusion that order is possible”). After the high excitement of Logos’ most crucial football game, Gary feels overwhelmed by his nihilism and gives up to endure hospitalization.

Taft Robinson

Taft Robinson, Logos’ only black student, a brilliant football star recruited from Columbia University. Taft not only has a sprinter’s speed and runs the hundred in 9.3 seconds but also is a bright and reflective young man who rooms alone and sometimes finds his gift for sports to be a burden. He is one of Gary’s closest friends.

Anatole Bloomberg

Anatole Bloomberg, a three-hundred-pound left tackle on offense. Anatole is Gary’s good friend and roommate who shares the alienation of Gary and Taft, all three of them being loners by nature as well as northerners who find...

(The entire section is 603 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The narrator, Gary Harkness, is a talented football player who might be said to think too much for his own good. His father, who had been a...

(The entire section is 483 words.)