In effect, there is only one character in The Works of Love, the protagonist. Although Gertrude’s fate is of concern to him, and the future of Will, Jr., a source of worry, neither these two nor any other character establishes a fully developed reality independent of Will Brady’s within the confines of the novel. The minor characters with whom Will is intimately connected obviously have an impact on his circumstances and on the various directions of his life. Still, they do not succeed in altering his nature or in influencing the manner in which he perceives life. On the contrary, they seem to dull his vision of the world.
In contrast, Will frequently encounters characters in the course of supposedly predictable social transactions who illuminate or reinforce the nature of his own experience. The anonymous man in California who speaks to Will of love and pity is a case in point. Similarly, there is Mr. Lockwood, a former college track star and current sporting-goods salesman, who carries clippings of his former triumphs in his wallet. He is an illustration in passing of a man who, like Will, is condemned to the narrowness of his own nature. “Some writer of books might even say that these clippings poisoned him”—just as the author of The Works of Love implies that Will Brady, having spent so much time at sea, metaphorically speaking, drowns at last in his own confusion.
The author’s decision to concentrate on Will...
(The entire section is 573 words.)