Pauline Gilley, the wife of the assistant department chairman. Thirty-two years old and discontented with her marriage and with life in general, she initiates an affair with Levin, as she did with his predecessor in the department. Whatever her faults, Pauline needs someone more capable of expressing love than is her husband.
Gerald Gilley, a college English teacher, the director of composition and eventually the department chairman. More interested in departmental politics and fishing than in teaching or in his family, Gilley is uneasy about Levin’s beard, his Jewishness, and his idealistic liberalism because they threaten his complacency. Within a short time of Levin’s arrival, he and Levin are on opposite sides in departmental controversies. His references to the virtues of teaching are actually rationalizations for lack of commitment to anything aside from himself. His response to his wife’s affair is very self-centered: He feels betrayed by the man he brought into the department and has him fired.
C. D. Fabrikant, the only scholar in the department. In his fifties, a Harvard man, and theoretically a liberal, Fabrikant is also an outsider in the department. He is the spokesman for the opposition and Gilley’s principal contender for the chairmanship. Levin is disappointed to discover that resentment and desire for power, rather than liberalism, are his primary motivators; consequently, Levin runs for the position himself.
Aviss Fliss, a teacher of remedial composition and assistant to the director. Miss Fliss, in her thirties, is the only unmarried woman in the department and fails in her attempt to have an affair with Levin. A major source of gossip about her colleagues, she also serves as a spy for Gilley.
Leonard Duffy, Levin’s predecessor in the department and in the arms of Pauline. An outsider from the East, like Levin, he never fit in. Gilley drove him from the school when he became suspicious of the relationship with Pauline.