Last Updated on January 10, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 796
Aubergine (“Jean” / “Aubby”)
Aubergine, who is called “Jean” by her parents and “Aubby” by Clara, is the narrator of The Prospectors. She is a young woman of either nineteen or twenty-two and is in charge of the operation she and Clara are running. The two girls leave their birthplace, Florida, to head out West as “prospectors,” but they are not looking for gold—rather, they use their looks to seduce and steal from men.
At the beginning of the story, Aubergine appears compassionate and caring; she barely knows Clara, but after seeing her with severe bruising from an unknown abuser multiple times, she tells Clara they must leave together at once.
Aubergine is a thief, but it’s clear she has been forced to learn how to survive, having no money of her own, and no family since her gambling father died by suicide outside a dog-racing track. She teaches Clara “what to take, and how to get away with it.” This side of Aubergine resurfaces toward the climax of the story, when her complexity is revealed. Fearing death, she comes to terms with the idea that perhaps she isn't as good a person as she would like to think, and perhaps she has just been using Clara.
But Aubergine’s actions at this point display the caring and compassion she exhibited at the beginning of the narrative, as she can't stop thinking about Clara during the party and ensures they get out of the lodge safely. Aubergine remains loyal and won't leave without her friend. She also remains calm when surrounded by dead men and sticks to the plan to leave the minute the sun comes up, allowing herself and Clara to escape together after the “greatest heist” of their lives.
It's unclear whether Aubergine learned a lesson from the experience at the lodge, but her actions and thoughts in the story show that she is good-hearted and wants to do right by her friend. Whether or not she will make better choices in the future, the story shows she has the potential to do so.
The daughter of a Portuguese immigrant, Clara is a young woman who is either nineteen or twenty-two. Her family is modestly wealthy and owns a large hotel in Florida that caters to tourists wishing to see a local “sea serpent.”
Clara is physically abused by someone at home, and the story leaves the perpetrator’s identity unclear. Thankfully, she is saved by Aubergine, who is working at the hotel. Together the girls leave the hotel and Clara’s mother and three sisters behind.
While Clara comes off as a damsel in distress, she is not completely innocent. Unlike Aubergine, she emotionally breaks down several times during the party, but she is also charming and beautiful, and she knows it. Clara uses these traits to her advantage, using them to procure money, food, and more. As Aubergine puts it, Clara “snap[s] back into character” in stressful situations. Even after all the trouble the girls have gone through to stay alive at the lodge, Clara still feels they must steal something in the end. She is the one who takes the caged bird at the end of the story, which shows both her indomitable spirit and that she may still have much to learn.
Clara, like Aubergine, is loyal. She checks in with Aubergine several times at the party and ensures that they leave together. Both women could be considered to have a warped moral compass, but that compass always leads them back to one another—and their thievery is what allows them to stay alive.
Mickey is a dead C.C.C. (Civilian Conservation Corps) worker at the Emerald Lodge who claims to have a wife and three daughters. He is a nice enough man, showing Aubergine the details of the beautiful building the men created when they were alive. He also, however, leads Aubergine to realize that the girls are in grave danger when he reveals that the girls have arrived at the Emerald Lodge and not the Evergreen.
Lee, a young man, is a dead C.C.C. worker who takes a liking to Aubergine at the party at the Emerald Lodge. He recounts how his father lost all his money, which connects to Aubergine's own childhood. He and Aubergine dance, kiss, and decide to go upstairs together, until the two are woken from their trance to take a picture.
Eugene de La Rochefoucauld
Eugene is a European-seeming boy who invites Aubergine and Clara to an elaborate party at the Evergreen Lodge. He implies he is well-known and that many high-ranking people will be in attendance. Eugene says he will meet the girls before the party, but he never shows up to the meeting place.