The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

An Annapolis graduate and Vietnam veteran, Owen Browne was one of the golden boys of his generation. For him, the war years were the best years of his life, a time of excitement and danger but also of intense commitment, clear-cut purposes and loyalties, and a daily challenging of self physically, psychologically, and intellectually. Everything has been downhill since. He resigned his Navy commission to write advertising copy for a yacht brokerage in Connecticut. Though he excels at sales and copy, he has lost his self-respect and the respect of his wife and daughter. He feels estranged, isolated, discontent. Browne sees the round-the-world yacht race as an opportunity to experience the excitement and danger of his wartime years and to regain his self-respect. His inexperience sailing the high seas alone does not diminish his desire to do so.

Anne Browne, a lovely, intelligent woman from a wealthy nautical family, has been faithful but is hurt and disturbed by an unfulfilling sex life and by Owen’s psychological distance from her; she longs to recapture the love of their youth. A successful, serious writer, she feels contempt for his advertising career. Though not convinced Owen can survive the voyage, she does nothing to stop him. Anne is trapped between loyalty to her husband and the fierce, fascinating sexuality of Strickland’s continued and insistent attentions. Strickland’s intensity, his driving sensuality, the sense he communicates of being...

(The entire section is 587 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Owen Browne

Owen Browne, a middle-aged former naval officer and veteran of the Vietnam War who now writes advertising copy for a subsidiary of a conglomerate known as the Hylan Cor-poration. When its head, Matty Hylan, senses financial ruin and disappears, Owen hopes to boost the sagging fortunes of all concerned by taking his place in a single-handed cir-cumnavigation race using the new Hylan sailboat. He wants to market the boat, but more important, he has been suffering from a midlife crisis that has left him in a state of paralysis and despair. Feeling stalled and restless in his personal life and his job, he has a need to start over. He also hopes to develop a sense of personal courage and heroism that eluded him during the Vietnam War and anticipated that, when tested, he will uncover a commanding self able to cope with the solitude and the sea. He immediately demonstrates his incompetence, however, by making poor preparations and by failing to realize that the Hylan craft is an untested boat, made of inferior materials, that cannot weather the voyage he is about to undertake. To add to his troubles, an accidental cut to his hand becomes seriously infected, contributing to his increasingly hallucinatory consciousness. As he sails further out to sea, he becomes increasingly preoccupied with his interior life, breaking off communication with anyone from the outside world. Losing his bearings, he reaches an island that represents his distance from all previous realities. Delirious, he mistakes a nest of crabs in an old house for a new wife and drifts beyond the limits of sanity. In a fit of megalomania, he charts a course to victory covered with false positions and upbeat commentary, arbitrarily imposing his own fantasies on reality. In reality, he is beset by a strong sense of failure, fear, and helplessness. The pretense that...

(The entire section is 755 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Throughout his body of work, Stone has created characters who have been described by one critic as "men and women who are fatefully,...

(The entire section is 445 words.)