Claude Wheeler is in all ways the central character in One of Ours (the novel, in fact, was originally titled Claude). He is splintered and unsure of himself in many ways throughout the book. His father can easily make Claude uncomfortable by teasing him or not treating him with what Claude intuitively seems to perceive is appropriate respect. Claude is deeply attached to his mother, but distinct from her; her hesitancy and faith both distance her, just as his overly intense approach to life and atheistic worldview distance him. Early in the novel, Claude wants to be an intellectual, but through his actions and reactions, Cather demonstrates that it is not abstract thought that shapes Claude or that determines his identity. Instead, it is action, experience, and emotion. He does not want to take command of the farm—but when he does, he pours energy into trying to save the pigs suffocated by the snow, and generates many new ideas to try on the land. In many ways, Claude does not know himself, and he follows his impulses down blind alleys, which is underscored when he marries Enid. She leaves him to care for her sister, and eventually he stops even thinking of her. Instead, Claude becomes intimately bound up with the men of B Company, and his selfhood depends upon the war.
Enid Royce plays two overlapping roles in One of Ours. On one hand, she is both innocent and idealistic. She is eager to do what she must do and what is right; she is even willing to marry Claude to save him or go to China to take care of her sick older sister, Carrie. She campaigns against drinking, completely due to her desire to make the world a better place. On the other hand, she does not seem to realize how distant and in many ways selfish she seems. She abandons Claude emotionally to campaign for temperance and then leaves him physically to care for Carrie. However, while she is willing to follow her path no matter what it...
(The entire section is 610 words.)