Virtually all the deep characterization in this novel is focused on Jessica, who seems in many ways to be a close counterpart to the author. Nadine Gordimer has also been married twice and, like Jessica, was barred from normal childhood activities after about age nine because of the suspicion of a heart ailment. Jessica recalls that sheltered early life with resentment, as though there perhaps had been no genuine ailment at all—blaming her mother, justly or unjustly. The ages and dates given in the novel determine that Jessica married Tom in 1954, the same year that Gordimer married for the second time. The presence of a Jewish character in the novel may reflect the fact that Gordimer’s father was a Russian Jew.
Of primary interest is Jessica’s development as a character, regardless of her relationship to the author. She is shown at the end of the book with Morgan, having found a way to communicate with him without embarrassment, and she has softened toward her mother as well. Her relationship with Tom was not bad to start with, but now it has deepened in consequence of her observations of Ann, Gideon, and Boaz. Very early in the novel, she had spoken of Tom and herself: “They had married to share life; but, of course, there was no getting out of it, even by marriage: each must live his life for himself.” True indeed. Ann, however, has taken this logic to a point beyond what Jessica can accept. Furthermore, “living one’s life for himself”...
(The entire section is 493 words.)