The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Lucien’s thoughts, actions, and language indicate that he finds it difficult, if not impossible, to make and to commit himself to choices that are clearly in his best interests. This Hamlet-like indecision seems to stem from his childhood. He was attracted by what he saw as the romance of his father’s life and is often driven, like his father, by sexual desires he refuses to control. Lucien (whose name suggests the devil that often seems to control him) is saved from self-destruction, ultimately, by his fine ironic sense and by his willingness to find a center to his life in the form of his son.

A lover of well-told tales, he often sees his life unrealistically, in terms of a story. In college, he is torn between two girls sketched in outlines suited to tales of the Old West; they have old-fashioned names and seem to represent vice and virtue. Even though the values and codes represented by the myths of the Old West appeal to him, he is not a storybook hero. As he rushes off to “save” Emily, he abandons his own child.

When he feels that he can go no lower, he finds that he can turn to his advantage resources that he has used successfully before: his organizational skills, his business acumen, and his “willingness to please.” He is a kind of fallen angel who starts to rise again as he begins to create a new life, this time one that he invests with meaning.

Suzanne is a stabilizing influence; she remains a wonderful wife and mother throughout. Suzanne rejected all other suitors to marry Lucien. Stung by his abandonment, she forces him to fight for her, as he did not before, until she...

(The entire section is 667 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Lucien Taylor

Lucien Taylor, the main character, a man who is unsure of where to find meaning in his life. As a boy, Lucien witnesses his father with a prostitute and later hitting his mother. She admits to having had an affair, and Lucien’s father leaves the family. Lucien grows up in Deadrock, Montana, with his mother, who becomes a tippler. While in college, he meets Suzanne and gets to know Emily. He marries Suzanne, and his work in the foreign service takes them to Latin America. They have a child, James. Five years after marrying, they hear that Emily has murdered Eric, her husband. Lucien feels a lack of high romance in his life and announces to Suzanne that he is not going back to work. He returns to his hometown in Montana without her and makes bail for Emily, then moves into Emily’s home. He feels a sense of mission in helping Emily and begins to paint, for the sense of peace that it gives him. He and Emily make love in the mineral springs on the ranch, but the next morning, she leaves, giving him the ranch and asking if she can come back. He has no sense of purpose gradually realizes that he is becoming lonely. He tries to paint and realizes that he has no talent; the solutions to his problems seem to him to be womanizing and alcohol. From being a loner, he becomes a town fixture and barfly. He realizes that he wants Suzanne back and discovers that he wants to accomplish something big. He takes out a loan against the ranch to construct a spa around his hot mineral springs, where he has taken a succession of lovers, beginning with Emily. The spa is a success, and Lucien uses that as a lever to persuade Suzanne to bring James to see him. When she arrives, he realizes that he has never been more in love, and throughout her visit he tries to persuade her to return to him.


Emily, a raving beauty with electrifying dark eyes. She makes Lucien think of himself as a painter and a rancher. She went to high school with Lucien but had no idea who he was; nevertheless, she sleeps with him on their first date in college. He continues to sleep with her and is almost caught with her by Eric, another boyfriend who is a medical student and who later marries her. She later shoots Eric to death, a...

(The entire section is 920 words.)