Margaret Gower, the protagonist and narrator. Margaret’s father, Walter, is an Episcopal priest; her mother, Ruth, abandoned the family when Margaret was six years old. Walter is a victim of frequent bouts of depression, and as Margaret grows older, she gradually assumes her mother’s old role of caretaker for him. Sharing her father’s introspection, as well as his faith in God and in the church, she tries to find a path into the confusing world of adulthood. She is, in turns, insightful and naïve about herself and those close to her. A generally reliable narrator, she has a keen sense of character and an inclination to see people kindly. For all of her insight into those around her, she avoids the obvious truth about her mother’s reasons for leaving.
Walter Gower, Margaret’s father and the rector of St. Cuthbert’s Church in Romulus, Virginia. He is a wise man with a deep faith in God and a sometimes unbelievable capacity for patience and forbearance. The “Father Melancholy” of the book’s title, he suffers from frequent and severe depressions, which he calls “the Black Curtain.” When the Curtain is open, he is an inspiring priest and mentor, as well as a caring father. When it is closed, he becomes strongly dependent—emotionally and physically—first on his wife, then on his daughter.
Ruth Gower, Margaret’s mother. As a...
(The entire section is 552 words.)