John F. Hook
John F. Hook, a retired schoolteacher. He is ninety-four years old and has been living in the Diamond County Home for the Aged for fifteen years. He is a man of thought and reflection who delights in intellectual discourse and still feels the essential obligation of a teacher to instruct the world in terms of the values, virtues, philosophical perspectives, and cultural landmarks he sees as the structural foundation of civilization. His ideas are grounded in American history, and his continuing sense of pleasure in the infinite, intricate detail of the natural world is a source of spiritual satisfaction for him, as well as evidence of a divine shape to the universe. As his long life nears it conclusion, he is sustained by his faith in some kinds of existence beyond the earthly realm he loves. Questions concerning the dimensions of “Heaven” intrigue him, and he is occasionally troubled by doubt, but his responsiveness to the things of the world and the social arrangements among the residents of the home revive and encourage him. He is seen as something of a wisdom figure by the others, and his gregarious demeanor—a remnant of the gallantry and charm he possessed as a younger man—makes his company welcome. The slightly artificial but captivating manner of his speech is one of his most appealing attributes.
Stephen Connor, the director or prefect of the home, a man in his middle years who has devoted his career in public service to his commitment to being of use to society. He is a rationalist who believes in the power of the state to create a kind of utopia in which human pain, suffering, and want can be reduced drastically. He believes that the limits of his present position prevent him from working toward the encompassing utopian vision he has developed, but he thinks of the residents as “his people” and tries to gauge and meet their needs. In spite of his good intentions, he is unable to understand the spiritual needs and capabilities of the residents, and his determination to keep...
(The entire section is 849 words.)