The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Lucy Winter, who becomes involved with campus people and events, has no loyalties and no preconceived likes and dislikes. She also has no philosophy of education, probably because she had not planned to teach and has no prior experience. The fact of Lucy’s broken engagement suggests her capacity to love, to give of herself to others. She is respected by many on campus as a confidante, a tower of strength, and a voice of integrity. Lucy’s loneliness without her former fiancé does not establish marriage as an ideal; Lucy is simply an individual whose plans had included marriage.

On the other hand, Carryl Cope, the medieval history professor who is recognized as an authority in her field, discreetly has her love affair with Olive Hunt, a wealthy trustee. Cope truly believes that the college is devoted to the pursuit of excellence, and she erroneously thinks that Jane Seaman shares this passion for excellence for its own sake. Although Cope misreads Jane, Cope herself does not waver in her position. She is a professor and a scholar. If Hunt proceeds to withdraw her bequest of millions of dollars and her allegiance to Appleton, she will have to part with Cope, who, although voting against the hiring of a psychiatrist, will remain loyal to her profession and to Appleton. Until the Seaman affair materializes, the diminutive Cope appears to be a giant. She finally admits to Jennifer Finch, a professor of mathematics, that she has been afraid to give love to...

(The entire section is 450 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Lucy Winter

Lucy Winter, a twenty-seven-year-old Harvard graduate who has recently experienced the collapse of her engagement and is beginning her first year of teaching American literature at Appleton, a small New England college for women. She is abruptly initiated into the twisting relationships of academe when she accidentally discovers indisputable plagiarism in the paper of an outstanding student who is the protégée of one of the most powerful and respected professors on campus. Confronted with issues of honesty, loyalty, pride, confusion, and commitment, Winter maintains her integrity during the ensuing arguments about the situation and grows steadily in respect from and for her colleagues and students. Simultaneously, she sharpens her awareness of teaching as a challenging profession and a demanding art.

Carryl Cope

Carryl Cope, a brilliant, indomitable scholar and professor of medieval history. Totally devoted to her profession and the college, she cares little for appearances and is passionately committed to academic excellence. After discovering the dishonesty of a student in whom she has invested countless hours and enormous energy, Cope at first hopes to cover up the incident. When it becomes clear that exposure is inevitable, she maintains her self-respect and that of others by admitting her mistakes in pressuring the student and concentrating exclusively on cultivating the mind. In the painful resolution, Cope not only faces her own pride directly but also risks the dissolution of her intimate twenty-year friendship with Olive Hunt.

Harriet (Hallie) Summerson

Harriet (Hallie) Summerson, a secure, honest, well-liked woman and a superb teacher of British literature. A generation older than Winter and unfailingly generous, Summerson welcomes Winter...

(The entire section is 753 words.)