The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Solstice is really a novel about its two main characters. It is a study of a codependent relationship and how each party deals with the relationship. Sheila Trask is an abuser of drugs and alcohol and also an abuser of Monica Jensen. Sheila indulges in violent mood swings and remains private and secretive throughout the novel, but she insists on Monica’s consistent cheeriness and willingness to share her thoughts and feelings. Because Sheila is so secretive, the reader never really learns what her true feelings are for Monica. However, she manipulates Monica by appearing to be interested in her. She also manipulates Monica by her constant talk of suicide and of the “mirror-ghoul” that stares back at her from the mirror, reminding her of her own mortality. At times, it seems that without Monica, Sheila would kill herself or become violently ill from refusing to take care of herself, but eventually, the reader discovers that the exact opposite is true. Sheila is in control, and it is Monica who is unable to take care of herself.

Although Monica never openly acknowledges the fact, it is clear that Sheila takes more of an interest in her than her husband (or any man) ever did, and that interest is what Monica craves; she vehemently desires to be liked. She thinks of herself as a “golden girl” and frequently recalls her younger days in high school and college, when she was a cheerleader and sorority girl who was very popular. She basks in...

(The entire section is 426 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Monica Jensen

Monica Jensen, the protagonist and viewpoint character. Nearly thirty years old and recently divorced, she bears a tiny scar on her jaw as a reminder of her failed marriage of nine years. She has undergone an abortion. To obliterate her past, she takes a position teaching English at an elite preparatory school, the Glenkill Academy for Boys in rural Pennsylvania. She rents an old farmhouse that she plans to refurbish, just as she seeks to remake her life. Cherishing her solitude, she works to the point of exhaustion, preparing courses and helping students while devoting weekends to household repair. Monica is self-absorbed, diffident, conscientious, and sensible. The blonde woman was once called a “golden girl,” an epithet that reverberates throughout the novel but one she often questions. Her desire is to recover her calm and stability.

Sheila Trask

Sheila Trask, a nonrepresentational painter of minor renown and widow of a famed sculptor. One of many artists scattered in Glenkill, Sheila lives at Edgemont, her country estate a few miles from Monica’s farmhouse. Physically and emotionally in contrast to Monica, Sheila is tall and lanky with olive skin, black hair, and gypsy eyes. Her temperament is stormy; she is given to manic mood swings. She is rumored to experiment with drugs and alcohol. She suffers bouts of artist’s block and depression, but when energized, she paints with compulsive fury....

(The entire section is 518 words.)