Frederick Olliver, the protagonist, a writer of thoughtful essays about literary subjects who supplements his meager income by teaching and hack editorial work. Following seven years of work, he publishes a book on a medieval topic that wins him acclaim and relative fame. Up to this point, Frederick has been overshadowed by the success of the playwright Lyle Gaynor, his married mistress. His jealousy of Lyle’s comparative brilliance and her apparent treatment of him as a pathetic failure lead Frederick into a painful affair with the dumb, vivacious, and unfaithful Dodo Brennan. When he can meet Lyle as an equal, he begins reevaluating his love life and returns to her. Frederick is prepared for mature love not by literary success but by the pain and humiliation he experiences in being torn between two very different women.
Lyle Gaynor, the cowriter of popular Broadway plays with her husband, Allan. She does almost all the work. The lack of passion and understanding in her marriage drives Lyle to Frederick. His affair with Dodo infuriates her, and she finds comfort with Edwin Stalk before Allan’s departure throws her into even greater confusion. Lyle regards success in her career and romantic happiness as equals but does not understand why the latter is more difficult to achieve.
Dodo Brennan, a young woman from Baltimore who goes to Manhattan...
(The entire section is 448 words.)