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.