In the Heart of the Valley of Love Characters

Cynthia Kadohata

The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Francie, the heroine and narrator of the book, is a nineteen-year-old Japanese American woman. The story is told through the prism of her first-person awareness and recounts the development of her social and cultural attitudes. In using a young narrator to describe a strange future universe, Kadohata gains the advantage of being able to have her character assume the novelties of the future rather than convey them to the reader in a didactic manner. Francie spent her childhood in Chicago but moved to Los Angeles in her early teenage years. Her parents died prematurely, leaving her in the care of her Auntie Annie. At first confused by the complexities of adult life and by the bleak circumstances of her own life, Francie matures in the course of the novel. In contrast to the older women in the book, Auntie Annie and Jewel, Francie does not let the obstacles posed by the persistent misogyny of her society stand in her way. Through her work on the school newspaper, her romance with Mark, and her other friendships and loyalties, she develops a strength that enables her to face courageously the difficult social problems that exert so much pressure upon her.

Auntie Annie, Francie’s aunt, is desolated by the disappearance of Rohn. Somewhat hapless and vulnerable at times, she nevertheless is a stabilizing influence on her niece.

Rohn Jefferson, Annie’s boyfriend, gets on the wrong side of the law simply by trying to provide for his family. His...

(The entire section is 479 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Francie, whose name is short for Francesca, the nineteen-year-old narrator. She quietly enjoys the weirdness of a life lived among people discarded by a future society. The daughter of a Japanese mother and a Chinese/black father, Francesca lives in a futuristic Los Angeles beset by riots, fires, mass unemployment, and gasoline and water shortages. The rich live in armed and gated communities. Like many others, Francie suffers from a new chronic skin disease, but she refuses to be bothered by it. Francie, who was orphaned at the age of fourteen, moves out of her aunt’s home after a car accident nearly severs her right arm. She joins the staff of her college’s newspaper, where she meets Mark, who becomes her boyfriend. Francie views sex with Mark with the same kind of benevolent distance with which she considers the rest of her topsy-turvy, terminally run-down world full of angry men, freeways ending in mid-air, desert tattoo parlors, and abusive relationships among her friends. After a series of professional setbacks and fights with her increasingly sullen boyfriend, Francie visits a secret spot in the Pasadena Arroyo with him. She digs up a box buried by her friend Jewel’s grandfather and deposits in it the two little rocks that she has treated as symbols of her dead parents for five years. With this act, she finally lets go of her hurtful past and readies herself for new adventures.

Mark Trang

Mark Trang, Francie’s boyfriend, also nineteen years old. He is a reporter for their college newspaper. Francie admires his strong build, pronounced cheekbones, and sensitive hands. His lovemaking with Francie can be wild and passionate, but sometimes he sinks into long silences. He was beaten by his father as a child and is a compulsive thief of restaurant mints. Mark constantly tries to help all of his friends. He even warns an administrator that he is being investigated. When the man is caught in a homosexual liaison with a student athlete and commits...

(The entire section is 822 words.)