Virginia’s development and point of view are at the center of the novel. She believably changes from a tentative although enthusiastic young puppeteer to a woman in control of her life. Her discovery of the family secret really plays a minor part in her development, which comes mostly from her practice of her art and the observation of the effect of her art on others. She comes across as a sympathetic young artist who must deal with racial prejudice as well as the general indifference to art and culture that was part of the era.
Belle, her mother, flees from life, and it seems to Virginia that her childhood has been punctuated by her mother’s inexplicable warnings. These make more sense after Virginia discovers the family secret. Belle’s sense of personal outrage has prevented her from full participation in her family and has created barriers between herself and her children. She is hyper-respectable, perhaps partly in reaction to the shock of her husband’s adolescent incestuous relationship. Although she loves her children, she seems to be constantly warning them not to expose themselves to any risks—in effect, not to live.
Ernie King has always made his children’s education his prime interest. He has done most of the parenting, especially after the move, and has instilled in his children a love for history and culture. He carries a mysterious sense of sadness, which is accounted for by Aunt Carrie’s revelation. He has been...
(The entire section is 500 words.)