The characters in The Woman Who Owned the Shadows serve largely as focal points for Ephanie as she examines her own pain and strives to take control of her life. The members of Ephanie’s family, namely her mother and grandmother and her children, are not developed characters. The short explanations of the love Ephanie’s grandmother held for her tribal ways, despite being shunned, in addition to her mother’s own feelings of isolation, provide the necessary background for Allen’s development of Ephanie as a woman divided from both mortal women and the goddess women in her life. Similarly, Elena’s character is not developed to any significant degree, but instead the childhood friend’s apparent betrayal of Ephanie confirms Ephanie’s blame of external forces and people for her own internal isolation.
In the same manner, the two men in Ephanie’s life provide stimulus for further examination of her internal dilemmas. Stephen is presented as a ghostly character. He is introduced during Ephanie’s initial mental desperation, the most disorienting and fragmented passage in the novel. That he is continually rejected by Ephanie, though he seems to be a consistently loyal friend, hints at the (eventually revealed) underlying mystery in Ephanie’s unhappiness.
Thomas, too, is only sketchily drawn. He is rejected by society because of his Japanese heritage, yet he is also deprived by that same society of his Japanese culture. His...
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