The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

While there are a number of background characters, including other people at the Vienna conference and in Isadora’s earlier life, the story revolves around only three: Isadora, her husband Bennett, and Adrian Goodlove.

Isadora is the central character and narrator, and the story is the story of her life thus far, told within the framework of a few months of time as she and her husband travel to Europe. A Jewish woman who grew up in New York in an eccentric home, she is daughter to a flamboyant and artistic mother and a father who was a songwriter and traveling businessman. Also living with them was her grandfather, who, also an artist, had the habit of painting over her mother’s canvasses.

Isadora’s life is defined in part by her mother but mostly by men. She reads male authors such as D. H. Lawrence to find out about women, she goes to so many psychiatrists that on the plane to Vienna she is able to remember being the patient of most of the doctors traveling with them, and she allows herself to be defined by her marriages and love affairs. So it is that her struggle for self-definition is also framed by relationships with men. Her husband Bennett represents safety, tradition, following the rules. Adrian represents the opposite of all that: rebellion, living for the moment, ignoring consequences. Until the end, her choice is not about who she will be, but about with whom she will be, which man will define her.

Bennett Wing is...

(The entire section is 412 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Isadora Wing

Isadora Wing, the protagonist and narrator. Isadora is a twenty-nine-year-old Jewish poet, the daughter of secular Jews. Her mother gave up painting to have a family, and her father is portrayed as somewhat distant. Isadora is torn between two contradictory impulses: the need for security and a supportive husband and the desire for freedom, adventure, and sexual exploration. Isadora is a writer and intellectual but also a highly sexual being who often says that men’s bodies are nice.

Bennett Wing

Bennett Wing, Isadora’s husband, to whom she sometimes refers as a father figure. Bennett is an orthodox Freudian who views all adult actions and feelings as having their genesis in childhood experiences, in particular in the relationship of the young child to his or her parents. Before he and Isadora make any important decisions, he insists that they discuss matters with their respective psychiatrists. Isadora sees him as silent and withdrawn. He has a beautiful body and is expert at providing sexual satisfaction, but he will not talk to her or tell her he loves her.

Adrian Goodlove

Adrian Goodlove, a British Laingian psychiatrist whom Isadora meets in Vienna when she goes there for a psychological conference with her husband. Isadora is attracted to his blond good looks and casual manner. He advocates a life of spontaneity and existential freedom. He tells Isadora that she should not be afraid of what is inside her and proposes that they go off together. He turns out to be a disappointment, both as a companion and as a lover.

Judith Stoloff White

Judith Stoloff White, also known as Jude, Isadora’s mother. The daughter of a painter who painted over her canvases when he ran out of canvases himself, Jude gave up her art to become a wife and mother. She is fond of telling her four daughters that they are the reason she is not a great painter. To Isadora’s chagrin, she dresses eccentrically (for Jude, the greatest sin is being ordinary), but she is also Isadora’s greatest booster and admirer, praising her high school compositions and listening tirelessly to her poems.


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The first-person narrator, although typical of the contemporary intellectual milieu, also successfully represents everywoman. Isadora White...

(The entire section is 309 words.)