Love in the Ruins

by Walker Percy

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Last Updated on August 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 944

Dr. Tom More

More is a lapsed Catholic who works as a psychologist and lives in the home of his former wife in an upmarket region of the city Paradise. More is at once a dreamer and a hedonist, who prefers things like sex and alcohol to lofty pastimes such as religion or philosophy, and yet he falls in love very easily and indulges in frequent musings on the meaning of life and the world. His efforts to market an instrument that measures the human brain’s capacity for irrationality with the help of a corrupt investor results in chaos, but he is able to rescue the situation and survive the revolution that follows soon after, ultimately settling down to a happy if uneventful marriage in a less affluent area.

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Ellen Oglethorpe

Originally from Georgia, Ellen is one of More’s three girlfriends. She works as his nurse, and while she is not religious, her unswerving commitment to do what is right suggests she has a decidedly religious mindset. While she is loyal to More for most of the novel, she does threaten to run away with his former investor, a threat that prompts him to propose to her. Ultimately, she provides him with the stability in life and in love that he had always needed.

Lola Rhoades

Lola is a young talented musician who More finds attractive for physical reasons, but also for her aesthetic interests in music and horses. More than once she rescues him from life-threatening situations, demonstrating her courage and resourcefulness under pressure, but as a character, she is not as deeply developed by Percy as Ellen.

Moira Schaffner

Moira shows fewer signs of intelligence than More’s other girlfriends, but she has demonstrated determination in elevating herself from impoverished beginnings by working at the Love clinic as a secretary. She is part of a love triangle that includes More and his associate, Dr. Brown.

Miss Marva

Miss Marva is More’s mother, who has a far more healthy outlook on the world than her son. She is able to survive the Bantu takeover of her district by setting up shop as a psychic.


Euki, Miss Marva’s servant, has a fondness for More but is unable to break his depression.

Dr. George Rhoades

The President of the American Proctologists association, Dr. George Rhoades, is a staunch conservative and racist. He lives next door to More and is very upset about his daughter Lola’s involvement with the other man.

Dr. Buddy Brown

Dr. Brown is not only More’s romantic rival for Moira’s affections, but also disagrees with More in the case of Mr. Ives, believing that his mental condition is sufficient to warrant euthanasia.

Mr. Ives

Mr. Ives cannot speak, and he has a mental condition that causes him to make some nontraditional life choices. These include relocating after his wife’s death to live wild in the forests of Louisiana and later dedicating himself to a search for the fountain of youth in Florida.

Dr. Kenneth Striker

Dr. Striker is a tall, austere doctor who dresses in very drear clothing yet runs the love clinic and indulges in many sexual experiments while working there.

Dr. Helga Heine

Originally from Germany, Dr. Heine is one of Striker’s assistants who engages in a sexual relationship with him after witnessing the sexual relationship between two of the patients they are observing.

Father Kev/Kevin

Another worker at the Love Clinic, this former priest is deeply influenced by More’s research—yet it turns out that he has not at all understood what the doctor was trying to say.

Father Rinaldo Smith

A priest who manages a small congregation, Smith was committed at the same time as More to an asylum, where he had a hallucinatory vision of America’s spiritual decline.


More’s ex-wife Doris was brought up among the tropes of Southern aristocracy. The death of the child she has with More leads her into an emotional decline which eventually compels her to leave More on a quest for self-realization.

Alistair Fuchs-Forbes

He is a British hypocrite who makes much of his distaste for American materialism yet is attracted to More’s wife primarily for her money. He doesn’t get his wish, since though she does leave More for him, she leaves More all her worldly wealth.

Victor Charles

Victor was a longtime servant of both More and his mother, who left their service and became involved with the Bantu movement. He seeks More’s help while running for Congress in organizing the affairs of his campaign.

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Colley is a multitalented individual, skilled not only as a doctor but as an electrician, martial artist, and encephalographer. More has great admiration for him as a person.

Charlie Parker

Parker makes much of being off the beaten track, of living a life free from the impulses that imprison his fellow men and women. However, his love of golf hints at his conservative beliefs, beliefs that spill out in his furious response to the burning of the city’s golf course by protesters.

Leroy Ledbetter

A friend of More’s and co-owner of the Paradise bowling alley, Leroy is proud of his American heritage and is responsible for sparking a riot when he acts in a discriminatory manner, refusing to allow a Black couple to bowl in his establishment.

Art Immelman

Art Immelman is a mysterious imposter who constitutes for Percy a modern-day Mephistopheles. Posing as the liaison officer between several major national foundations, he convinces More to grant him rights for the lapsometer and uses it to increase tension between various social groups in Paradise.

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