James Quinn, whose arrivals at the Centennial Club open and close the book, emerges as its central character. His perceptions and adventures provide the novel’s continuity. It is his change in attitude toward Stanton—from his reticence to see Stanton in the beginning to his sense of himself as Stanton’s moral bedfellow in the end—that enacts the only character transformation in the story. Given the explosive energies ignited in the destruction of the Centennial Club and its pretensions, this transition seems a meager outcome. Quinn, though content with his compromise, remains separate from Stanton and, more important, from Janey, in his cell-like existence.
Vernor Stanton changes little, if at all. He is as obnoxious at the end as he is at the beginning. His demeanor toward Janey and Quinn appears somewhat restrained in the final scene—after all, the mock duel hurts no one—but this civility is countered by his crude treatment of his servants. Stanton is probably best imaged in one of his youthful escapades, which Quinn describes for Janey—a brazen contest wherein Stanton lowered his pants in a restaurant and “contrived by an imperceptible movement of his feet to present a Full Moon,’ that is a 360-degree view.” Stanton’s value for Quinn, however, lies precisely in the man’s perverse idiosyncrasy.
Like Quinn, Janey is victimized by Stanton and at the same time finds his outrageous energies irresistible. She is his second...
(The entire section is 556 words.)