The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Ezekiel Farragut is a World War II veteran, forty-eight years old in the early 1970’s, convicted in an era of social drug taking. A scion of American aristocracy, he led the Nanuet Cotillion one year and recalls family traditions with a mixture of pride and disdain. His meditations and reminiscences describe his having stolen road and waterway signs earlier in his life, thus establishing the petty beginnings of his criminal tendencies.

One of the clearest examinations of Ezekiel’s character comes in his own analysis of the causes of his addictive personality. He seems to blame his “versatile” family most, especially his mother, whom he confuses in his mind with an archetypal image of mother seen in a particular painting by Edgar Degas. Never having felt at home anywhere, he describes himself as a citizen of some border country such as Liechtenstein. He obviously has little sense of his own place and therefore of his guilt: “The accident or what they called the murder had taken place, Farragut thought, because of the fact that whenever he remembered or dreamed about his family he always saw them from the back.” His family’s sophisticated intelligence was so constantly judging, so continuously discriminating, that nothing ever was good enough or sure enough to hold on to. They lacked a tangible core, and the child Ezekiel grew up with no central self to depend upon.

The “versatility” also allows, perhaps even encourages, him to be bisexual. His sense of awe and mystery about women keeps him from finding complete satisfaction with them but also prevents his being purely homosexual: “Women were Ali Baba’s cave, they were the light of the morning, they were waterfalls, thunderstorms, they were the immensities of the planet, and a vision of this had led him to decide on something better when he rolled naked off his last naked scoutmaster.” It is not that he is thoughtless about his own motivations and desires; while in prison he explores the most subtle psychological nuances: “If love was a chain of resemblances, there was, since Jody was a man, the danger that Farragut might be in love with himself. . . . And then there was to think upon the courting of death and...

(The entire section is 901 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Ezekiel (Zeke) Farragut

Ezekiel (Zeke) Farragut, a forty-eight-year-old veteran of World War II, college professor, drug addict, and convicted murderer. He is articulate, sensitive, masculine, and sex-crazed. Zeke’s story is one of imprisonment, drug withdrawal, homosexual love, fratricide, and affirmation of life. The story begins at the time of Zeke’s imprisonment in Falconer, a one-hundred-year-old prison in what is evidently New York state. While there, he is mistreated by guards who deny him methadone while he is withdrawing from heroin. He falls in love with Jody, another prisoner, whom he takes as a homosexual lover. Finally, he escapes from Falconer by zipping himself into the body bag of a fellow inmate who has died, thereby getting himself carried out of the prison.

Eben Farragut

Eben Farragut, the older brother whom Ezekiel murdered. Eben already is dead when the story opens, but Zeke tells his story to Jody, and he also discusses his brother with his wife during her visits. Eben was given to psychological violence toward his younger brother. As a youth, he once encouraged Zeke to swim against an incoming tide. The attempt would have meant death, but Zeke was warned in time by a passing stranger. Eben also had taunted Zeke with the fact that their father had tried to force their mother to have an abortion before Zeke was born. There is also turmoil created by Eben in regard to the two brothers’ wives....

(The entire section is 574 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Because of its prison setting, Falconer allowed Cheever the opportunity to experiment with different characters than in his previous...

(The entire section is 312 words.)