Family Happiness by Laurie Colwin

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Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Polly Solo-Miller Demarest

Polly Solo-Miller Demarest, the main character, the only daughter of Henry Solo-Miller and his wife, Constanzia Hendricks, who is always called Wendy. Polly (whose real name is Dora) is the wife of Henry Demarest and mother of Pete (age nine) and Dee-Dee (age seven and a half). Polly, in her early thirties, is employed part-time as coordinator of research in reading projects and methods. She is a competent, devoted wife and mother as well as an amiable and accommodating daughter to her parents. She mediates between her two brothers. Polly has one other role: mistress of the successful but reclusive painter Lincoln Bennett. This affair began several months before the book opens. Polly’s anguish over the conflicts in her feelings about Henry Demarest and Lincoln Bennett forms the crux of the novel.

Lincoln Bennett

Lincoln Bennett, Polly’s lover, whom she met at a gallery showing of his paintings. He lives alone in his studio. He is a naturally loving man, but he has given up expecting to find happiness in love because he cannot endure living with anyone. He has known the Solo-Millers for some time and considers them smug, snobbish, and unappreciative of Polly, the only one of the family who is completely selfless, kind, and tender-hearted. He is the only person who recognizes and values these qualities in her.

Henry Demarest

Henry Demarest, Polly’s husband, so absorbed in his work that he appears unaware of the devotion and skill with which Polly manages his household and the love she lavishes on him without expectation of gratitude or return of passion. He loves Polly, as Lincoln does, but Henry never asks her about herself, is always distracted and preoccupied, and is sometimes snappish and surly. He acknowledges that he needs Polly and insists that he loves her when she asks him if he does, whereas Lincoln Bennett wants to know everything about her life and her feelings but does not want her to live with him. Like Henry, Lincoln sees his work as the most important part of his life.

Wendy Solo-Miller

Wendy Solo-Miller, Polly’s mother. Having reared a perfect daughter, Wendy continues to remind Polly constantly of her duties as a mother, frequently criticizing her for holding a job that takes her away from home and children three days a week, even though Wendy herself, when her children were small, spent at least as much time on various volunteer projects. Scatterbrained and demanding, especially of Polly, Wendy has no notion of Polly’s feelings, worries, and disappointments, because Polly herself never reveals them, rightly believing that no one is interested.

Henry Solo-Miller

Henry Solo-Miller, the patriarch of the family. Although he is a successful lawyer, Henry is no more aware of other people than he...

(The entire section is 699 words.)