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Last Updated September 6, 2023.


Sean is scarred for much of his life by his experience as a six year old, when his father held him out of a window over a four-story drop. While he stifles this painful memory as best he can, it manifests itself through strong and inexplicable longings, such as his desire for feminine companionship, and fears, such as his response to the news that a baby has died from falling out of a window.

While he is at college, this memory also manifests itself in strange dreams about people leaping out of windows. The fact that Sean cannot make the link between such images and his past indicates how thoroughly he has repressed the memory of looking down at the cracks in the pavement.

Once they are born, Sean loves his sons deeply, and this love leads him to reach an agreement with his past. When he comforts the man in the elevator, it is partly the man's resemblance to one of his sons that gives him the courage to play the father figure he himself had never had.

Sean’s Father

Sean’s father has only a brief encounter with his children, yet the events of this encounter have a terrible effect on them and influence Sean’s character development for the rest of the work. Sean's father's mental illness lends him a strange and terrible charisma, and he dominates his children in one regard, compelling them to participate in actions they can see are dangerous as well as irrational. In another regard, the children act as parental figures to him, staying by his side until help arrives, in a caring gesture. Sean’s father seems to long for freedom, not for the love of his children. This seeming yearning also possesses Sean early in his marriage, though the birth of his children helps him to put it to rest.

The Young Man

In a pivotal encounter, Sean meets a young man who resembles one of his sons in an elevator. The young man's panic at being suspended in midair mirrors Sean’s own experience as a child and inspires him to provide emotional support. In so doing, Sean demonstrates both empathy and a reconciliation of his past.

Philip and John

Philip and John are Sean’s sons, for whom he feels a genuine affection. They provide him with stability, a reason to turn away from the chaotic and ungrounded habits of his early marriage and to adopt a more responsible paternal role. In the figure of John catching a baseball, Sean recognizes a more positive possible connotation of being in midair.

Sean’s Wife

A quiet and thoughtful woman with whom Sean could not forge a lasting relationship, she ultimately asks Sean for a divorce. This event has a telling effect on him: he fears it will mean estrangement from his sons.

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