Characters Discussed

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Ian Bedloe

Ian Bedloe, the protagonist, the son of Bee and Doug Bedloe, optimistic parents of the ideal American family. Ian cannot reconcile life’s reality with his family’s rosy views. He tells his elder brother Danny that Danny’s wife Lucy is being unfaithful and that “their” new baby is no more Danny’s than are Lucy’s other two children, by her first husband. When Danny dies in a car wreck immediately afterward, followed quickly by Lucy’s death by an overdose of sleeping pills, Ian blames himself for Danny and Lucy’s “suicides” and orphaning of three small children. Ian becomes the “Saint Maybe” of the novel’s title, torn between his fear of making more mistakes and his human desires. He is a flawed hero who must come to terms with his own and others’ humanity.

Lucy Dean Bedloe

Lucy Dean Bedloe, Danny’s wife and Ian’s sister-in-law. A traditional American housewife, Lucy depends on men to support herself and her children. Impoverished in youth, when she developed the habit of shoplifting items she could not afford, undereducated, and untrained for work, Lucy marries early, is deserted, and divorces her immature husband, becoming totally responsible for the welfare of her two children. Drawing on her youthful energy and sexual attractiveness, Lucy wins the hand of Danny Bedloe in marriage. Initially, Ian secretly admires her. After Danny’s sudden death, Lucy finds it difficult to locate work or attract another man to help take care of her new baby and two older children. The unfairness of Danny’s death and the harsh reality of single parenthood overwhelm her. Lucy uses sleeping pills to keep reality at bay.

Agatha Bedloe

Agatha Bedloe, Lucy’s oldest child. Agatha is a serious, unattractive girl who “mothers” her own frightened mother and younger siblings, taking on responsibilities far beyond her years. She becomes the antithesis of her mother as a dedicated California physician and career wife with no children of her own.

Thomas Bedloe

Thomas Bedloe, Lucy’s second child, Agatha’s loyal follower and family protector. He is a gregarious boy who becomes an inventor for a New York software company, engaged to a bossy woman like his sister Agatha.

Daphne Bedloe

Daphne Bedloe, Lucy’s youngest child. She is carefree but scolds Ian for his tentative sainthood and worries with the others about Ian’s happiness. Daphne follows in Ian’s footsteps, remaining in Baltimore, living in her family home long past the ages when Thomas and Agatha left, staying single, and spurning college for nonprofessional jobs. Like Ian, Daphne searches for work that will not be too personal; she needs to keep human intimacy at one remove.

The Reverend Emmett

The Reverend Emmett, pastor of the Church of the Second Chance. The reverend tells Ian that he must atone for his sins to win God’s forgiveness and advises him to drop out of college to take care of Danny and Lucy’s children. Later, he suggests that Ian return to college in mid-life to become his assistant pastor.

Rita di Carlo

Rita di Carlo, who becomes Ian’s wife. Rita is the neighborhood “clutter counselor,” a competent, decisive woman the Bedloes hire to help clean the house after Bee’s death. Rita’s youthful sensuality and resourcefulness spark Ian’s interest; she seems both safe (she will not need to be taken care of) and unsafe (vibrant and sexual) at the same time. She surprises Ian into mid-life marriage and subsequent fatherhood.

Characters

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The characters in Saint Maybe , as is typical for all Anne Tyler...

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novels, are wonderfully diverse: the neighborhood characters like the foreigners with all their American gadgets; Claudia Bedloe, who names her children alphabetically; members of the Church of the Second Chance, who grieve for sons or gather for Good Works; and Rita, the clutter counselor, who straightens out lives by clearing out closets and basements.

Ian Bedloe undergoes the most change. At the beginning of the novel he is a seventeen year old described as "handsome and easygoing, quick to make friends, fond of a good time." The good times end abruptly when Danny dies. Ian flounders at college, sick at heart and unsure what to do. When he discovers the Church of the Second Chance, he finds he must accept responsibility for some rash words; and he is forced to grow up very quickly. Hardly more than a child himself, at nineteen he becomes father to his brother's children: Agatha, Thomas, and Daphne. But he becomes the glue that holds the family together, and the children love and want to protect him. When they realize they are growing up and away from him and that he will be left alone, they try to arrange a relationship with Daphne's teacher. Their efforts are a comic failure, but their intentions are kind. When Rita and Ian become mutually interested, the children are willing to accept her. She sees the fine qualities that others often overlook, distracted by his seriousness and religious practices. Although he is a realist about parenthood, Ian can joyfully begin anew as father to Joshua. Parenthood, again, is not entirely by choice, but this time Ian has a partner and no longer has a burden of sin on his shoulders.

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