The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Because Tom is the narrator as well as the protagonist in The Prince of Tides, all the characters are developed through his eyes and become significant primarily as they affect him. Scarred by the traumatic events of his childhood, Tom finds his life coming apart as the novel opens. His attempts to aid his psychotic sister, however, enable him to come to grips with his past and provide him with the self-confidence to face the future. At the end of the novel, he is able to say truthfully that he is a survivor.

Savannah, Tom’s highly intelligent and ultra-sensitive sister, has apparently suffered the most psychological damage from the repression of reality practiced by the Wingo family. Three days after the rape, which Lila makes the children swear never happened, Savannah first attempts suicide. Soon thereafter, full of bitter hatred for her parents and for the South, Savannah leaves South Carolina for New York. Although she establishes herself as a poet, Savannah cannot escape her past. Following Luke’s death, she first assumes a new identity, that of a lesbian friend who has committed suicide, and then she again attempts suicide herself. With Tom and Susan Lowenstein’s help, she moves toward recovery.

Luke as a child assumes the role of protector for the younger twins. Compassionate, courageous, and a loner, Luke is a physically strong outdoor person who wants to spend his life as a shrimper. When the government takeover of...

(The entire section is 439 words.)