The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

As the novel begins, Sam is portrayed as a lonely man, “waiting for something” to shake him out of an unwonted lethargy. His relationship with Carla, and the various states of passion he experiences because of her, are crucial to his redemption as a man.

Possessed of a healthy sexuality, Sam finds Carla to be a willing and seductive partner. Yet he succumbs to jealousy when she seems to treat him with the habitual Roman “indifference” to his deeper needs. His jealousy turns to altruism as he conceives of himself as her protector, her “master,” who shall rehabilitate her and lead her to self-respect. More and more, though, his generosity becomes paternalistic, resistant to the fact that Carla is capable of looking after herself. Their relationship fires his long-dormant ambition to return to his painting. While covering the religious ceremonies, Sam is impressed by Carla’s devoutness, and her feelings seem to parallel his own aesthetic outlook. Finally, like John Milton’s Samson Agonistes of 1671 (“And calm of mind, all passion spent”), Sam is released from his psychological or deal of attachment to Carla. While he is hardly complex, Sam is not a shallow character, and the reader can easily empathize with his situation.

Carla is more shadowily portrayed. The degradation of her early life, her subsequent climb to near stardom in the seedy purlieus of American show business, and the mutual humiliation of her affair...

(The entire section is 434 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Sam Raymond

Sam Raymond, a blue-eyed, solidly built man of thirty-nine who looks “rumpled but very clean.” He arrives in Rome to photograph the events surrounding the death of the pope, feeling intensely alone. His spiritual crisis is precipitated by his growing awareness that he will never realize his ambition to be a successful painter in a style different from that of his famous father. At loose ends, he wanders the streets and encounters a young woman, Anna, who soon proves to be an American singer. She becomes the most important thing in his life. With the pope’s death and the conclave of cardinals to select the new pope, Raymond is torn between his professionalism and his involvement with Anna. He finds an appropriate place for her to sing and she becomes a hit again. With her newfound success, Anna draws away from him. She is persuaded by an American agent to return to the United States, and Raymond, at first angry and then despondent, finally realizes that her courage in returning to the scene of her failure and his contribution to making her whole again have given him the courage to accept his own talent as a photographer and to let go of his failed dream to be a painter.

Anna Connel

Anna Connel, also known as Carla Caneli, an American singer whose career seemingly has ended. She is beautiful with irregular features: “Her mouth was too large, the lower lip drooping softly, her nose almost aquiline, and her eyes, almost too far apart, brown or hazel, shone and glittered.” Since the end of her career in America, Anna has become...

(The entire section is 651 words.)