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World's End Characters

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The cast of characters in World's End is as complex as that of an eighteenth-century novel, which is the intention of the author, who makes constant allusion to past literature in all his novels. The sheer number of characters and the complexity of the relationships between them requires Boyle to place a three-page list of characters at the beginning of the novel. The list is divided into two halves, one half corresponding to the characters in the seventeenth century, and the other half corresponding to the characters in the twentieth century. Each half is further divided into four groups of characters: the Van Brunt family, the Van Wart family, the Kitchawank Indians, and the descendants of Ichabod Crane and other characters. This list is helpful, perhaps even necessary, as characters from different groups interact and as the names of seventeenth-century characters are borne by their descendants in the twentieth century.

Walter Truman Van Brunt is introduced in the novel in 1968 just before he has a motorcycle accident and loses his right foot. On New Year's Eve, 1968, Walter has another motorcycle accident and loses his other foot. Soon afterwards, he finds himself in bed with Mardi Van Wart, the daughter of a family that historically have been rivals of the Van Brunts. Walter's wife Jessica becomes the lover of Tom Crane, the descendant of Ichabod Crane, the character in Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."

Late in the novel Walter goes to Alaska to see his estranged father Truman, whom Walter has not seen since he was twelve years old. When Walter had been a child, Truman had read to Walter from Diedrich Knickerbocker's History of New York, another creation of Washington Irving's. Truman studies at the City College of New York and becomes interested in Communism. His senior thesis, Manorial Revolt: The Crane/Mohonk Conspiracy, suggests that the landed gentry — namely, the Van Warts — have deceived the Kitchawank Indians and others from...

(The entire section is 497 words.)