Matt Friedman, a forty-two-year-old Jewish accountant from St. Louis, Missouri. A tall, commanding figure with great warmth and honesty, Matt fell in love with Sally the year before, when he met her during a vacation in her small hometown of Lebanon, Missouri. After having written to her daily for a year and receiving no response, he has returned to her home to face her and ask her to marry him. Matt is not, by his own admission, the romantic type; he is a loner, a European immigrant whose loss of his family in prewar Europe has left him isolated and rootless. He has a strong propensity for mimicry and wit, and he uses these often as defense mechanisms to ward off pain, a talent he adopted in having to assuage the painful memories of his childhood. Undaunted by Sally’s rejection and demands that he return home, Matt knows that Sally cares for him and refuses to leave until he can reveal a secret about himself that will affect her marriage decision. With great difficulty, he recounts his life, in the guise of a hypothetical story, detailing the murder of his parents and sister in Europe and his arrival in America. He concludes by revealing the effect that his losses have made on his life: his secret “resolve . . . never to be responsible for bringing into such a world another living soul.” He believes that no woman would want a husband who refused to father children, but when Sally finally admits the secret to her life, the...
(The entire section is 521 words.)