Sam Pollit is the most forceful and most flamboyant character in the novel. Tall, blond, and handsome, he demands—and receives—attention in whatever situation the author places him. He is strangely childlike, full of energy, adventure, and naivete. One of his most distinctive features is the language that he makes up and uses in daily conversation with his children. Although they do not have complete command of the language, their speech is marked by its influence, and the private vocabulary establishes Sam’s need for attention and control and provides a strong bond between him and his offspring.
Sam is also given to philosophical pronouncements on the state of mankind and the world in general. He strongly believes that nature provides the ideal model for conducting all activities. He is a devoted environmentalist, in an era before that term and the philosophy it embodies were fashionable. He also has some Hitlerian ideas about the elimination of weaker, inferior specimens of the human race.
His politics are a strange mixture of democracy and socialism, but the most dominant spiritual and emotional trait ascribed to Sam is his eternal optimism, based upon his faith in his own righteousness, even in face of enormous personal strain and defeat. Even when he is being cruelest to his children, the objects of his most profound and essential love, he believes, truly, without the least irony, that he is doing the right thing.
Henny is the product of an aristocratic upbringing, but she has long since lacked the means to live an aristocratic life. As a result, she accumulates, over the years, secret debts and obligations to lenders both reputable and disreputable. Upon her death, Sam realizes that it will take him more than five years to repay the debts she has incurred.
Henny’s character is developed largely through her anger. Her tantrums...
(The entire section is 771 words.)