The Hotel New Hampshire Characters

John Irving

The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

John Berry, Irving’s protagonist-narrator, is the moral center of the novel, the spokesman for Irving, who, like John, was born in 1942. (Incidentally, Mr. Berry’s first name is Winslow, which is Irving’s middle name.) In the course of the novel, John resolves a host of problems, all of which involve maturation and identity. In fact, the novel is almost a casebook on Freudian psychology (the distinction between the two Freuds blatantly makes the point).

Despite the novel’s focus on the five Berry children, the reader actually knows only Franny and John well. Egg (whose name is obviously symbolic of the unformed personality) dies when the family leaves the womblike first Hotel New Hampshire. Lilly, whose physical growth is stunted, also exists primarily as a symbol of arrested development: Her first novel concerns autobiographical events that culminate with the fatal plane crash. Her inability to deal with the death of her mother and with the initiation experiences of Vienna is manifested in her failed second novel, which concerns events after the crash. Although Frank is more fully drawn, he is defined almost exclusively in terms of his homosexuality, which he comes to terms with by the end of the novel.

John’s parents also serve largely symbolic roles, a point that Irving makes by referring to them not as Win and Mary but as Mother and Father. The reader knows little about Mother, whose primary function is to die, thereby leaving...

(The entire section is 596 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

John Berry

John Berry, the third child of Mary Bates Berry and Winslow Berry. He chronicles the family’s life, first from his parents’ accounts and later as a sympathetic and reflective eyewitness. His incestuous love for his sister Frannie is cured drastically by the loving Frannie herself. His daily weight lifting and running provide the strength for him to squeeze to death one of the men plotting to blow up the Vienna Opera House and take the Berry family as hostages. John takes good care of his blinded father both in New York and in the old Hotel Arbuthnot-by-the-Sea, which becomes a rape crisis center when John marries Susie.

Winslow (Win) Berry

Winslow (Win) Berry, a dreamer who is always out of touch with reality. His passion for owning and running a hotel propels the family from a small town in Maine, where they owned the Hotel New Hampshire, to a cheap hotel in Vienna run jointly with Freud, and eventually back to the Hotel Arbuthnot-by-the-Sea, where he had met both his future wife and Freud, the bear trainer. When he tries to help Freud blow up a car that contains a bomb before that bomb can activate a larger one in the Vienna Opera House, flying glass blinds him. Later, when he is moved from a New York hotel to Arbuthnot-by-the-Sea, to be cared for by John and a succession of Seeing Eye dogs, he does not realize that there are no guests.

Mary Berry

Mary Berry, a woman who had the courage to marry the penniless Winslow and bring up their three children practically single-handedly while he was touring with a performing bear named State O’Maine and later when he was in the Army and then at Harvard. She had two more children and ruled her riotous household gently but firmly, always deferring to her husband even to the extent of selling her family home to buy the first...

(The entire section is 761 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

As in all of John Irving's work, the characters in The Hotel New Hampshire are memorably odd in one way or another. The characters...

(The entire section is 262 words.)