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Alice is precocious and is determined to find an alternative lifestyle. She seems strong and capable. When she is not paid for her two months of babysitting twins, she reflects that she

was never going to seek gainful employment again, that was for certain. She’d remain outside the public sector. She’d be an anarchist, she’d travel with jaguars. She was going to train herself to be totally irrational. She’d fall in love with a totally inappropriate person... she wanted to be extraordinary, to possess a savage glitter.

These are not idle determinations. Alice sets out to live her dream. She has already adopted radical environmental views, arguing that not being born is a good decision for the environment.

Alice goes on to form a relationship with Sherwin, a pianist she meets at one of Carter’s parties. Sherwin is not an appropriate person to fall in love with, which is perhaps why she pursues her relationship with him. Alice declares her love for Sherwin almost immediately but loses it just as quickly. Sherwin, who is considerably older than Alice is, enjoys having her in his thrall and hints that he wants to assist her suicide.

By the end of the novel, Alice has gone from an independent and powerful young woman to a lost and powerless girl. When she declares that there are some things she does not want to know, her grandfather simply tells her not to feel bad about the C she got last year and that she can do better next year. Further, Nurse Daisy is nonplussed by Alice’s bravado. Finally, Emily looks upon Alice’s anger at the animal museum with disdain.


Annabel in many ways serves as Alice’s rival. She is materialistic and considers the merits of dusk as a color. Whenever Alice challenges Annabel, she is quick to defend herself. Annabel is determined to make Annabel cry, but she does not succeed. However, Annabel and Alice are alike in many ways. They are both insightful and articulate, they have both lost their mothers, and they are both outsiders—Alice for her radical views and Annabel because she has recently moved to Arizona. By the end of the novel, Annabel seems to have found a place of strength, or at least she has not deteriorated. However horrified she may be by him, Annabel is able to repulse Sherwin’s advances.


Corvus is often found with Alice and Annabel, but she is very different from them. Where Alice and Annabel are outspoken rivals in their clashing values, Corvus is passive. Alice argues that Corvus has a great deal of strength, though it is rarely revealed. After her mother passes away, she begins to retreat into herself. She has sleeping marathons. By the end of the book, Nurse Daisy suggests that Corvus has learned to live in a cell, suggesting that her retreat from the world is complete.


Carter is Annabel’s father. Carter has a passion for high art like opera and classic literature, ranging from Jack London to that of the ancient Greeks. He often reads deep into the night. Carter has recently lost his wife, Ginger, but he does not seem overtly sad to have lost her. Instead, he acts as though he has been freed, moving to...

(The entire section contains 844 words.)

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Critical Essays