The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Josephine Humphreys excels at developing convincing, well-rounded characters. In Rich in Love, her narrative method enables her to reveal character in several ways. Lucille reports the past history of everyone she knows, as well as their present conduct. Sometimes, as with her mother’s desertion, the present does not seem consistent with the past, when her mother seemed devoted to her family. However, when Helen unburdens herself to Lucille, it becomes clear that she was never as happy with her life as she appeared to be. Therefore, though her leaving home indicates that she has changed enough to have made a decision about her life, her family’s earlier assessment of her was never very accurate. It is also clear that Lucille erred even in her initial description of her mother when she typed her as a woman dominated by her imagination. Helen proves to be much more than merely someone with a curious mind, belatedly searching for her own identity. She also has a heart. When she learns that Rae is having problems, Helen sends for her, and when the baby is born, Helen comes out of hiding to help. Lucille’s misreading of her mother is most evident in the fact that, having been told by Rae that she was meant to be aborted, Lucille has never felt that her mother really loved her. Seeing how overjoyed Helen is to see much of Lucille in Phoebe, Lucille realizes that her mother has always adored her.

It is true that the characters in Rich in...

(The entire section is 458 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Lucille Odom

Lucille Odom, the protagonist and narrator. “Lulu” to her mother and sister, she is a seventeen-year-old high school senior during the events of the novel but is narrating from two years later. When her mother, Helen, abruptly disappears, Lucille tries to keep the family together. As it becomes clear that her mother will not be returning, Lucille tries out some new relationships and eventually learns to redefine “family.” Her telling of the story emphasizes the joy she takes in her world rather than the sadness of a disintegrating family. Indeed, Lucille’s coming together, opposed to her family’s coming apart, makes the novel life-affirming.

Warren Odom

Warren Odom, Lucille’s father, called “Pop.” A sixty-year-old retired demolition expert, his distinguishing characteristic is his innocence, according to Lucille, but Lucille no doubt sees herself reflected in him. Lucille thinks he will be heartbroken by Helen’s departure, but in fact his heart is remarkably resilient. Troubled by memories of poverty during the Depression, he uses his memories to help him move forward. Gradually, he comes to accept his wife’s disappearance and begins a relationship with another woman in which he finds a new happiness. In the end, all that holds him to Helen is memory.

Helen Odom

Helen Odom, Lucille’s mother. Forty-nine years old, she and Warren have been married for...

(The entire section is 536 words.)