Characters Discussed

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Elizabeth, the self-conscious narrator, who describes her story as a record of “transformed” and “distorted” memory. Born in 1922 in Lexington, Kentucky, she was one of nine children. Feeling misplaced and uneasy in the South, she moves from Kentucky to New York at the age of eighteen to study at Columbia University. She is the author’s fictional persona.


Alex, an intellectual friend of thirty years, a “dubious Casanova” and Elizabeth’s first lover. Following years of separation, he returns to Elizabeth for comfort and understanding when jilted by Sarah, his fiancée.

Dr. Z.

Dr. Z., “the eternal husband” to Madame Mevrouw Z.; “fervent romancer” to Simone, the painter; and “faithless” lover of his nurse employee. Elizabeth, in retrospect, attributes his insatiable desire for love from women to his Jewish identity and the ghastly memories of experiences in a concentration camp in Germany.


J., Elizabeth’s childhood friend from Kentucky. The homosexual jazz enthusiast is Elizabeth’s roommate in New York in the 1940’s.

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Critical Essays