The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

In At Weddings and Wakes, McDermott filters what is known and discovered through the minds of the Towne-Daily children, most often through a composite consciousness that seems to mesh with the point of view of the author. Sometimes a particular child is chosen as a focal point, and readers are thus able to distinguish between the boy, for example, and his sisters. Robert, well-behaved and introverted, is an exemplary altar boy who rises in the mornings in time to attend early mass. He is a good boy, the priest says, prompt, courteous, with pressed cassock and shined shoes. When his sister Margaret decides to emulate his behavior and go to early mass herself, Robert is glad for her company and seems pleased to point out to her things that give him pleasure—pinkish clouds left in the sky, a last star, a hedge filled with sparrows in the morning dew. Try as she might, however, Margaret is unable to match her brother’s generosity and selflessness. The gladioli that she finds in the cemetery and identifies as her own treasure, separate from her brother’s, have to be a special gift, the child thinks, perhaps an offering to her teacher, Miss Joan. The flowers, the child thinks, would transform the teacher from ugly duckling to blushing bride gliding across a dance floor in the arms of a new husband. Margaret’s joy turns to shame and humiliation, however, when Miss Joan spurns the flowers, which came from the dirt of a freshly dug grave.


(The entire section is 578 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Robert Dailey

Robert Dailey,

Margaret Dailey

Margaret Dailey, and

Maryanne Dailey

Maryanne Dailey, children who are the focus of the narration. Robert, at age twelve, is the oldest. An altar boy, he is well groomed, polite, unselfish, and studious. Margaret, the middle child, identifies more readily with Maryanne. Neither has aspirations to be a nun matching Robert’s goal of becoming a priest. Both look up to Robert and try to emulate his behavior. The children are presented more forcefully as a group than as individuals.

Lucy Towne Dailey

Lucy Towne Dailey, the children’s mother. She makes twice-weekly trips to Brooklyn to visit her stepmother and sisters, and she spends most of her time complaining about her husband. For about twenty years, she is the only one of the four sisters to be married. She seems never to have broken the ties with her family sufficiently to allow a happy marriage.

Bob Dailey

Bob Dailey, Lucy’s husband and the children’s father. He tries to provide the family with at least two weeks of something different from the trips to Brooklyn. A patient man, he does not object to his wife’s constant visits “home.” He has come to like the Towne women, and he willingly helps them with such matters as taxes and insurance.

Momma Towne

Momma Towne, Lucy’s stepmother, who...

(The entire section is 561 words.)