The characters in Surfacing all contribute to the narrator’s sense of alienation and victimization. David, a college communications teacher, is talkative but insensitive. Most characteristically, he imitates the sounds of movie cartoon characters. Egotistical and controlling, he forces Anna to strip for his film. He fancies himself clever and superior to others but is dependent upon his wife to reinforce this attitude. Anna shares the love/hate codependency, trapped in her marriage but constantly straining to please him. When the narrator opens the movie camera and throws all the film in the lake, Anna, rather than acknowledging female support, only says that David will be vindictive.
Joe, a potter who makes oddly mangled pots that no one buys, seldom says much, most often grunting responses, and the heavy hair on his back and body emphasizes the image of a primitive, animalistic man. He wants the narrator to say the words “I love you” and to marry him, a repeated refrain that indicates his insecurity. Once he has sex with Anna, perhaps intending to make the narrator jealous. David, in turn, tries to get the narrator to sleep with him, but she refuses. It is Joe she pulls to the earth, watching the moon over his shoulder in an almost primordial mating, and at the end of the novel, it is Joe who comes back to the island. He will not wait long, she thinks, and she is not quite ready to answer his call, but she will soon, because his very...
(The entire section is 488 words.)