The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Pitch Dark rejects conventional characterizations, offering instead bursts of narrative from which the reader must deduce character. Kate Ennis emerges as a sensitive, intelligent, long-suffering heroine. The many digressions reveal where Kate comes from, where she is now, and where she hopes to be in the future. The characters are not so much described as experienced through Kate’s consciousness. The Ireland story in the second section shows Kate in a state of paranoia, suggesting that her mental stability has been threatened by the upheaval in her love life. The sinister inscrutability of the servants and villagers in Ireland reinforces her sense of helplessness.

Jake is presented as an insensitive, vacillating, self-centered man who takes Kate’s love for granted. His actions slowly force Kate to realize that his love for her is diminishing. When she seeks his assistance in some maintenance problems with her house and pond, he refuses even to share with her the names of reliable workmen he has used at his own place. This selfish disregard for her problems prompts these thoughts: “And though I know my heart cannot have been broken in these things, these things of my house and of yours. . . , I find that I am crying as I write. . . .” Similarly, he refuses to take her on any trips during those eight years of their romance. (She had had her heart set especially on a visit to New Orleans: “Would it have cost him all the earth, sometime in all those years, to take her to New Orleans for a week?”) Jake remains, ultimately, a vague presence in the background. His importance is clear, but his character and personality remain thoroughly problematic.

Many of the other characters, brief as their bit appearances are, shine vividly on the page, but none of them takes on full flesh and blood.

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Kate Ennis

Kate Ennis, an attractive, fortyish journalist involved in an eight-year affair with Jake, a married man. Her background is revealed slowly; she appears first as “I,” with her first name introduced later. She attended “a major college” and did graduate work in English. She has some knowledge of the law and was involved in a successful libel action. Kate’s fractured narration of the course of her relationship with Jake reflects her disjointed state of mind: She wishes to justify and cling to the obviously deteriorating love affair, yet she simultaneously recognizes its progressively destructive effect on her psyche. Her solution is to flee temporarily from the problematic situation, and she ends up in Ireland, vacationing at the castle of an ambassador who has invited her to stay there in his absence. Her initial difficulties in finding the castle, compounded by the peculiar circumstances surrounding a car accident en route, contribute to her general nervous state of uneasiness; her subsequent indifferent treatment—which she interprets as muted hostility—by the house staff during her stay reinforces her apprehensions about the motives of other people toward her. She eventually flees the country, feeling like a criminal. Although Kate is by turns embarrassed by and self-critical of her mistrust of people and events that she deems suspicious, many of her misgivings ultimately are proved sound. Upon her return to the United States, Kate decides to retire for more contemplation to Orcas Island. Jake is still pursuing her, yet she tries to resign herself to being alone...

(The entire section is 658 words.)