Henry is the main character of the novel; he is a practice baby who happens to be the son of one of the practice house students. Henry is a charmer from day one. He quickly learns how to manipulate the women around him to get what he wants. Henry grows up in the practice house, so he does not experience a normal childhood—he has many “mothers” and fails to attach emotionally to just one. He is especially resistant to the hovering ways of his adoptive mother, Martha.
Martha is the director of the home economics program at Wilton College. She is a lonely woman, her short marriage having ended after a miscarriage, and she has no living relatives. Martha is a stickler for the old ways. She insists that babies only need to feed and looked after—she does not recognize the importance of emotional bonding and affection. Martha clings to Henry and cannot fathom why he does not return her love. Martha struggles with the idea that her entire life has been devoted to a way of thinking that is now frowned upon and considered outdated. She is especially distressed when she considers the idea that her childrearing methods may have been the very thing that prevented Henry from ever truly loving her.
Betty is a young coed and the daughter of the college president. She is also Henry’s biological mother. Betty married young, and her husband was reported missing during the war. When it turned out that he was actually a deserter, Betty was disappointed but agreed to go live with him in Australia. When she finally returned to meet the 9-year-old Henry, she was still a bit immature and had issues with drinking. Betty moved to New York to try to make a life for herself but she was never quite ready to be a mother and constantly needed looking after.
Mary Jane is Henry’s best friend, she loves him but makes no demands. She...
(The entire section is 739 words.)