The Fork River Space Project Characters

Wright Morris

The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Kelcey is a fascinating and open-minded observer of humanity, sympathetic to Dahlberg even when Dahlberg threatens his generally stable marriage. Kelcey realizes that as an artist he must grow in order to keep himself alive, and to attain the satisfaction of experiencing new ideas, new places, and new people. Yet while he is keen in his observation of people, he concludes that he must live on this planet and not be caught up in a kind of starry-eyed idealism that would put him out of touch with the workaday world.

While many may question his almost casual relinquishing of Alice to Dahlberg’s arms, much can be said for the kind of emotional maturity he displays in realizing that having to let go is one of the risks in any relationship.

Many novelists have used a writer as protagonist, and the result is often excessively self-conscious. In contrast, Morris’s portrait of the artist is wry, low-key, and unpretentious yet thoroughly convincing. There is very little talk about writing in the course of the novel, but through Kelcey the reader sees the world as a writer sees it.

Equally adept is Morris’s portrait of Dahlberg. While many writers may have been satisfied with sketching the housepainter as a one-dimensional eccentric, Morris is not content to present Dahlberg as a mechanical figure that merely advances the plot. Though readers may be put off by Dahlberg’s rude and inconsiderate ways, they learn in time that this...

(The entire section is 437 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Kelcey, a middle-aged writer. The fact that his wife calls him a “tease” suggests the fact that he has a tentative attitude toward life; he is always willing to alter his opinions. His curiosity propels him to the ghost town of Fork River and leaves him open to Harry Lorbeer’s vision of the past and the future. Although he is devoted to his young wife, when she leaves him he is neither bitter nor vengeful. Instead, he is content to wait patiently for what will happen, perhaps a tornado, perhaps a visitation from outer space.

Alice Calley Kelcey

Alice Calley Kelcey, Kelcey’s wife. A small, pretty woman with brown eyes and dark brown hair, she is shy but stable in character. Much younger than Kelcey, she nevertheless seems happy with him, attached to her home and to her garden. Her very openness and generosity, which led her to fall in love with Kelcey, draw her to O. P. Dahlberg. Finally, Alice disappears with Dahlberg, leaving a cryptic note for her husband.

Harry Lorbeer

Harry Lorbeer, a proprietor of the Fork River Space Project. A part-time plumber, usually attired in bib overalls, he is short, plump, and balding. He drives a gaudy hippie van. The youngest child and only son of a railroad magnate who once lived in Fork River, Harry is now the mysterious guru of a mysterious faith that sees the only possible salvation of the world in some contact with forces beyond it....

(The entire section is 520 words.)