In the Garden of the North American Martyrs Characters

Tobias Wolff


(Short Stories for Students)

Dr. Howells
Dr. Howells is the chairman of the department of history at the prestigious college where Louise works and where Mary is led to believe she is a job candidate. He is arrogant, detached, and pretentious. The air of entitlement and superiority with which he presents himself is undermined, however, by his appearance. Mary is able to remember his name in part because he is so strikingly ugly, with a ‘‘porous blue nose and terrible teeth.’’

Louise describes Jonathan as her lover. He never appears in the story. Because Louise barges in on Mary late on a night she said she would be spending with Jonathan, demanding to know if Mary thinks she is ‘‘womanly’’ or has a sense of humor, readers can guess that he has expressed dissatisfaction with her in regard to those qualities.

Louise, a former colleague of Mary’s at Brandon College, is now a professor of history at an unnamed ‘‘prestigious college in upstate New York.’’ At first glance she is everything Mary is not: married and outgoing, but self-centered and pretentious. It becomes evident that she is desperately insecure and has no scruples about using other people to fulfil her own needs: she talks incessently about herself, complains about her husband and children’s negative reactions to her having taken a lover, and frankly admits, when confronted, that she knew Mary did not have a chance at the job, but...

(The entire section is 477 words.)