The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Thomas McGuane has a prodigious talent for creating amusing, vivid, flat characters. This is part of his comic talent. Some of Skelton’s fishing clients are masterfully sketched, for example, Mr. and Mrs. Rudleigh from Connecticut and Olie Slatt from Montana. Skelton’s very kinky family is a source of much amusement and laughs. Sometimes, the humor throws all verisimilitude to the winds—and this would be fine if Ninety-two in the Shade were a purely comic novel. Skelton’s home is the fuselage of an antique warplane; his father, who once established a whorehouse and owned a factory for blimps that flew the black flag of anarchism, voluntarily confines himself to the house and lives for months at a time in a bassinet that is covered with mosquito netting; Skelton’s mother is a former prostitute; his grandfather, Goldsboro Skelton, is one of the biggest crooks in Florida and somehow charms businesses into paying him graft and protection money. They are comic characters.

Yet Thomas Skelton is engaged in finding a reasonable vocation, even if only for half of his time (he would like to read and see his girlfriend during the other half), and in finding an identity. The novel half-comically and half-seriously follows his development, his search for the truth about himself and his family. It flirts with the tradition of the Bildungsroman. The characters are both comic and not comic, hovering between flatness and roundness. Readers who...

(The entire section is 402 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Thomas Skelton

Thomas Skelton, a young man who wants to become a self-employed fishing guide with his own boat. After returning to his native Key West in a drug-induced state of confusion, Skelton decides that his road to sanity demands that he become a fishing guide. He has made this choice by “elimination”; everything else he has tried or considered is either unappealing or beyond his talents. His determination is evident when he persists in his plan after Nichol Dance, one of the two established guides in the area, threatens to kill Skelton if he actually guides. Skelton does not take this threat lightly, knowing full well that Dance will do what he wants to do. He has the unique experience of living in a town where someone would enjoy taking his life. To economize, Skelton lives in an old airplane fuselage modified enough to serve as living quarters. There he reads books on fish and guiding, preparing for the day when he will only have to take clients one or two days a week, leaving the rest of the time for his own reading and fishing.

Nichol Dance

Nichol Dance, the fishing guide who threatens to kill Skelton if he actually guides out of his dock west of Marathon. He has a history of violence produced by a quick temper and is mentally unstable enough to do what will also destroy himself. He does not seem to dislike Skelton but believes that he must follow through to maintain his reputation and credibility. Because he often contemplates suicide, shooting someone else is not an especially momentous occasion to him.

Faron Carter


(The entire section is 661 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Objections raised against McGuane's rendering of female characters are less cogent when applied to Ninety-Two in the Shade. A woman...

(The entire section is 154 words.)