Philip is the central and most sympathetic character of the novel. His story is a coming-of-age and a “coming-out” tale, and he is the main conduit for emotional understanding. Philip is a sincere and sensitive young man whose journey takes him from self-doubt and obsessiveness toward self-knowledge and authentic love. It is through a more rigorous examination of his lovers and his parents that Philip ultimately finds himself. At the same time, he provides an interesting foil and gloss to Owen; at numerous points, scenes from their lives—meals, sexual encounters, phone conversations—are effectively juxtaposed.
Owen, an older, more confused, and more repressed man, is much more enigmatic. While on the surface potentially despicable for his deception and indecision, Owen is not an unsympathetic character, for Leavitt is careful to convey Owen’s pain, guilt, and sincere desire to do what is right for both himself and those he loves. He is portrayed as a man lost and confused, a representation of the bluntness that results from the repression of desire and honesty.
Rose, though not as repressed or deceptive, has also been living with lies. While seemingly a victim, she is also a wife guilty of infidelities who prefers to avoid confrontation. She is a sympathetic character, but one with a complex layering of feelings, thoughts, desires, and self-deceptions. That her journey is determined primarily by the desires and actions of others...
(The entire section is 444 words.)