Characters Summaries

Waiting for the Barbarians Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: J. M. Coetzee First published: 1980 Genre: Novel Locale: A settlement on the frontier of an imaginary empire Plot: Psychological realism Time: The late nineteenth or early twentieth century The Magistrate, the story’s first-person narrator, an administrator of a territory belonging to an unnamed empire. He is an aging and somewhat decadent man who […]

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Voyage to Tomorrow Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Tawfiq al-Hakim First published: Rihlah ila al-ghad, 1957 (English translation, 1984) Genre: Play Locale: Earth and another planet Plot: Science fiction Time: The late 1950’s and 309 years later The first convict, a prominent physician and son of a physician, sentenced to death for murdering a patient, the husband of a woman with whom […]

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A Voyage Round My Father Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: John Mortimer First published: 1971 Genre: Play Locale: England Plot: Psychological realism Time: The 1930’s to the 1960’s Father, a barrister in London, an antisocial man who takes refuge in his beloved garden every time a visitor threatens to disturb him. He seems sincerely to pity his son for having to go visit someone. […]

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The Voyage Out Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Virginia Woolf First published: 1915 Genre: Novel Locale: London, the mid-Atlantic, and South America Plot: Psychological realism Time: c. 1906 Rachel Vinrace, the twenty-four-year-old protagonist, an intelligent and sensitive but only informally educated young woman. She plays the piano beautifully and has considerable musical talent but is socially innocent and naïve, with a weak […]

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Voss Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Patrick White First published: 1957 Genre: Novel Locale: Various locations in Australia Plot: Historical Time: The 1840’s Johann Ulrich Voss, a German immigrant to Australia, a botanist with a desire to become famous as an explorer during the golden age of nineteenth century exploration. Voss possesses the will of a Nietzschean superman, and he […]

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Volupté Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve First published: 1834 (English translation, 1995) Genre: Novel Locale: France Plot: Psychological Time: Early nineteenth century Amaury (ah-moh-REE), the narrator, later a priest. A sensitive, melancholy youth, he engages in a platonic love affair with Madame de Couaën after putting aside Amélie de Liniers, the young woman who loves him. When the […]

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Volunteers Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Brian Friel First published: 1979 Genre: Play Locale: Ireland Plot: Tragicomedy Time: The 1970’s George, the site supervisor. A pompous, rather unlikable man, he has the most contact with the diggers. He refuses to be entertained by their antics or concerned with their troubles. Most of the time, he literally looks down on them […]

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Volpone: Or, The Fox Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Ben Jonson First published: 1607 Genre: Play Locale: Venice Plot: Social satire Time: Sixteenth century Volpone (vohl-POH-nay), the Fox, a Venetian magnifico. Delighting in foxlike trickery, Volpone scorns the easy gain of cheating widows and orphans and the hard gain of labor. He chooses for his victims Venice’s leading crooked advocate, its most greedy […]

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Voices in Time Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Hugh MacLennan First published: 1980 Genre: Novel Locale: Germany and Montreal Plot: Historical Time: 2039–2044, with flashbacks to the twentieth century John Wellfleet, the narrator, age seventy-six, a former hippie and teacher and the survivor of the “clean” bombs that destroyed civilization. During the rebuilding of Metro (Montreal), the Wellfleet-Dehmel papers are discovered, and […]

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The Vivisector Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Patrick White First published: 1970 Genre: Novel Locale: Sydney, Australia, and its environs Plot: Psychological realism Time: c. 1900–1970 Hurtle Duffield Courtney, a renowned Australian artist. He is sold at a young age to the wealthy Courtney family by his impoverished, prolific parents, the Duffields. This commerce in a human being provides the novel’s […]

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Vivian Grey Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Benjamin Disraeli First published: 1826–1827 Genre: Novel Locale: England and Germany Plot: Political Time: Early nineteenth century Vivian Grey, an ambitious young Englishman who desires a political career. His unscrupulous conduct ends that career. Traveling in Germany afterward, he learns how terrible politics can be and realizes how immoral his own conduct has been. […]

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A Visitation of Spirits Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Randall Kenan First published: 1989 Genre: Novel Locale: North Carolina Plot: Psychological realism Time: April 29–30, 1984, and December 8, 1985 Horace Thomas Cross, a sixteen-year-old adolescent of predominantly African American ancestry with one white ancestor who was a leading citizen of the community. Throughout the novel, Horace undergoes a severe psychotic episode triggered […]

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Visitants Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Randolph Stow First published: 1979 Genre: Novel Locale: Papua New Guinea Plot: Psychological realism Time: 1959 Alistair Cawdor, a patrol officer in the Australian protectorate of Papua New Guinea. Called Misa Kodo in the local pidgin, Cawdor is responsible for all aspects of central administration. His official duties, however, only add to the personal […]

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The Visit Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Friedrich Dürrenmatt First published: Der Besuch der alten Dame: Eine tragische Komodie, 1956 (English translation, 1958) Genre: Play Locale: Güllen, a town in Central Europe Plot: Tragicomedy Time: The mid-1950’s Claire Zachanassian, one of the richest and most powerful women in the world and a former resident of Güllen. She is a sixty-three-year-old redhead […]

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A Visit from the Goon Squad Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Jennifer Egan First published: 2010 Genre: Novel; short story collection Locale: San Francisco Bay Area; New York; Naples; Southeast Africa Plot: Psychological realism Time: the 1970s through 2020 Alex, Sasha’s date; Bennie’s “parrot.”As with Sasha, Alex appears in the first chapter and the last, though his character does not factor in any other chapters. […]

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The Virginians: A Tale of the Last Century Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: William Makepeace Thackeray First published: serial, 1857–1859; book, 1858–1859 Genre: Novel Locale: England and the Colony of Virginia Plot: Historical Time: Late eighteenth century George Esmond Warrington, the older son of Madame Rachel Esmond Warrington and her deceased husband, and the heir to the Castlewood estate in Virginia. Impetuous, emotional, and introspective, George volunteers […]

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The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Owen Wister First published: 1902 Genre: Novel Locale: Wyoming Plot: Western Time: Late nineteenth century The Virginian, a cowboy in Wyoming who is one of nature’s gentlemen. He can perform his duties well and hold his own in practical jokes, drinking bouts, and poker games. When given an opportunity, he proves to be an […]

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The Virginia Comedians Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: John Esten Cooke First published: 1854 Genre: Novel Locale: Colonial Virginia Plot: Love Time: 1763–1765 Champ Effingham, the foppish, Oxford-educated son of a wealthy Virginia planter. Infatuated with Beatrice Hallam, he wounds his rival for her love and then flees to Europe. When he returns, two years later, he has lost his foppish ways […]

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Virgin Soil Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Ivan Turgenev First published: Nov, 1877 (English translation, 1877) Genre: Novel Locale: Russia Plot: Social criticism Time: 1868 Nezhdanov (nehzh-DAH-nof), a young socialist who idealistically believes in revolution as the panacea for all of Russia’s ills. Born illegitimate to a wealthy aristocrat, Nezhdanov (literally, “the unexpected”) received a university education, specializing in the arts. […]

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The Virgin and the Gipsy Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: D. H. Lawrence First published: 1930 Genre: Novel Locale: A rural rectory in the Midlands of England Plot: Psychological Time: The 1920’s Yvette Saywell, a nineteen-year-old who has just returned home from school. A proud, spoiled young woman, Yvette causes friction in the family because she does not take responsibility for her own actions. […]

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Vipers’ Tangle Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: François Mauriac First published: Le Nœud de vipères, 1932 (English translation, 1933) Genre: Novel Locale: Calèse (an estate), Bordeaux, and Paris Plot: Psychological realism Time: 1930 Louis (lwee), a dying lawyer who comes to realize that his heart is a knot of vipers. Intelligent, cunning, greedy, unscrupulous, and incapable of love, Louis—as death approaches—writes […]

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The Violins of Saint-Jacques: A Tale of the Antilles Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Patrick Leigh Fermor First published: 1953 Genre: Novel Locale: Mitylene in Asia Minor and the Caribbean island Saint-Jacques Plot: War Time: 1902, as recalled from 1952 Berthe de Rennes (behrt deh rehn), the governess of the Serindan family, wealthy landowners living in Saint-Jacques. Berthe is an intelligent and independent-minded seventy-year-old Frenchwoman who is highly […]

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Violet Clay Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Gail Godwin First published: 1978 Genre: Novel Locale: Charleston, West Virginia; New York City; and the Adirondacks Plot: Psychological realism Time: The 1970’s Violet Clay, the protagonist and narrator. Nine years ago, Violet left her husband and moved to New York City to make her mark as a painter. Since then, however, she has […]

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The Violent Land Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Jorge Amado First published: Terras do sem fin, 1942 (English translation, 1945) Genre: Novel Locale: The city of São Jorge de Ilhéus, Bahía, Brazil, and nearby plantations Plot: Historical Time: 1911–1912 João Magalhães (zhoh-OWN mah-gahl-YAYS), a gambler and drifter who claims to be a captain and military engineer who has participated in several revolutions. […]

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The Violent Bear It Away Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Flannery O’Connor First published: 1960 Genre: Novel Locale: Tennessee Plot: Psychological realism Time: 1952 Francis Marion Tarwater, a backwoods teenager who is perversely proud to have been born at the site of a car wreck in which his unmarried mother died. His father was a divinity student who later committed suicide. Kidnapped by his […]

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Vineland Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Thomas Pynchon First published: 1990 Genre: Novel Locale: California Plot: Social satire Time: Late 1980’s Zoyd Wheeler, a former hippie living in a Northern California community called Vineland. He earns a government pension by taking an annual dive through a plate glass restaurant window in front of television cameras to prove that he is […]

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Villette Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Charlotte Brontë First published: 1853 Genre: Novel Locale: Belgium Plot: Bildungsroman Time: The early nineteenth century Lucy Snowe, a quiet, intelligent, and hardworking young English girl whose grave demeanor covers a deeply passionate nature. Orphaned at an early age, she spends her childhood in the homes of distant relatives and with her godmother, Mrs. […]

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The Villagers Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Jorge Icaza First published: Huasipungo, 1934 (English translation, 1964) Genre: Novel Locale: Ecuador Plot: Social realism Time: Twentieth century Andrés Chiliquinga (ahn-DREHS chee-lee-KEEN-gah), an Indian who dies defending his huasipungo (a small plot of ground given workers on an estate) against the greedy whites. Cunshi (KEWN-shee), his wife, who is wronged by Pereira. Alfonso […]

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The Village Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Ivan Bunin First published: Derevnya, 1910 (English translation, 1923) Genre: Novel Locale: Russia Plot: Social Time: Early twentieth century Tikhon Ilitch Krasoff (TIH-khon ihl-YIHCH krah-SOHF), a dram-shop keeper and an entrepreneur. He is bitter because his illegitimate child is killed accidentally and his wife cannot bear him any children. When his crops fail because […]

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Vile Bodies Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Evelyn Waugh First published: 1930 Genre: Novel Locale: England Plot: Social satire Time: A twentieth century interval between wars Adam Fenwick-Symes, a young writer. He returns from Paris to England to marry his fiancée but is forced to postpone his wedding because the manuscript of his autobiography is confiscated and burned by customs officials. […]

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Vienna: Lusthaus Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Martha Clarke First published: 1987, in The Drama Review Genre: Play Locale: Vienna Plot: Surrealism Time: The late nineteenth century Vienna, a city at the turn of the century, the “character” that emerges from this group of tableaux, which are arranged so as to overlap, fade in and out, and even to take place […]

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Victory: An Island Tale Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Joseph Conrad First published: 1915 Genre: Novel Locale: The East Indies Plot: Psychological realism Time: Early twentieth century Baron Axel Heyst, a man who has deliberately attempted to stand aloof from life, an effort that has made him a pathetic man if not a tragic one. He is innately and fastidiously virtuous, but by […]

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Victoria Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Knut Hamsun First published: 1898 (English translation, 1929) Genre: Novel Locale: A small Scandinavian village Plot: Love Time: The late nineteenth century Johannes, the miller’s son, later a poet. At the age of fourteen, Johannes is immersed in nature. Birds, trees, and stones are all his friends. Imagination peoples his small realm with dwarfs, […]

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The Victim Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Saul Bellow First published: 1947 Genre: Novel Locale: New York City Plot: Moral Time: Probably the 1940’s Asa Leventhal, who works as an editor of a trade paper. He finds his life turned upside down in a matter of days. While Asa’s wife, Mary, is out of town visiting relatives, Asa receives a call […]

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The Vicomte de Bragelonne Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Authors: Auguste Maquet and Alexandre Dumas, père First published: 1848–1850 (English translation, 1857; also in 3 volumes, The viscomte de Bragelonne, 1893; Louise de la Valliere, 1893; The Man in the Iron Mask, 1893) Genre: Novel Locale: France and England Plot: Historical Time: Seventeenth century Raoul (raw-EWL), vicomte de Bragelonne (vee-KOHN deh brah-geh-LOHN), the son […]

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The Vicar of Wakefield Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Oliver Goldsmith First published: 1766 Genre: Novel Locale: Rural England Plot: Domestic realism Time: Eighteenth century Dr. Charles Primrose, the vicar of Wakefield, “a priest, an husbandman, and the father of a family.” He is generous, kindly, honest, and given to strong opinions (as on monogamy). A homely philosopher, he admonishes his wife and […]

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The Vicar of Bullhampton Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Anthony Trollope First published: 1869–1870, serial; 1870, book Genre: Novel Locale: England Plot: Domestic realism Time: Nineteenth century Frank Fenwick, the vicar of Bullhampton. He is involved in an altercation with the marquis of Trowbridge, in part over the vicar’s standing by a young man the marquis thinks should be in jail. The vicar […]

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Venusberg Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Anthony Powell First published: 1932 Genre: Novel Locale: London and an unnamed Scandinavian country Plot: Love Time: The mid-1920’s Lushington, a young British journalist, intelligent but inexperienced, assigned to a nameless Baltic country on the eve of its political upheaval, which may result in revolution. He is sorry to leave Lucy, with whom he […]

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Venus and Adonis Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: William Shakespeare First published: 1593 Genre: Poetry Locale: Greece Plot: Erotic Time: Remote antiquity Venus (VEE-nuhs), the goddess of love and beauty. Voluptuous and fierily passionate, she is greedy for the love of young Adonis and immodestly thrusts her attentions on him. His shyness and sullenness increase her desire. She is a master of […]

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Venice Preserved: Or, A Plot Discovered Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Thomas Otway First published: 1682 Genre: Play Locale: Venice Plot: Tragedy Time: The Renaissance Jaffeir (JAF-yur), a Venetian citizen who wins the undying animosity of Priuli by secretly marrying his daughter, Belvidera. After three years of being thus disowned, Jaffeir and his wife are heartbroken and penniless, their only joy being in their deep […]

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The Venetian Glass Nephew Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Elinor Wylie First published: 1925 Genre: Novel Locale: Venice, Italy Plot: Fantasy Time: 1782 Peter Innocent Bon, a cardinal of the Roman Catholic church who yearns to have a nephew, though all of his sisters are in holy orders and his brothers have fathered only daughters. In his naïveté, he asks a glassblower friend […]

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The Vendor of Sweets Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: R. K. Narayan First published: 1967, in Great Britain as The Sweet-Vendor (U.S. edition, 1967) Genre: Novel Locale: Malgudi, India Plot: Comic realism Time: The 1960’s Jagannath, called Jagan, a manufacturer and seller of sweets in the fictional town of Malgudi in southern India. A prosperous widower, Jagan has almost reached the age of […]

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The Velvet Horn Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Andrew Lytle First published: 1957 Genre: Novel Locale: Tennessee Plot: Bildungsroman Time: The 1880’s Captain Joe Cree, Julia Cropleigh’s husband. Cree is killed when he moves in front of a tree his crew is felling. The steady older cousin of the Cropleigh orphans, Joe married Julia to provide for her. At the time of […]

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Vein of Iron Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Ellen Glasgow First published: 1935 Genre: Novel Locale: Ironside and Queensborough, Virginia Plot: Family Time: 1900–1935 Ada Fincastle, later McBride, a ten-year-old when the novel opens, the daughter of John Fincastle, a defrocked Presbyterian minister. Sensitive to people and nature, she instinctively understands that her role in life is to make the best of […]

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Vathek: An Arabian Tale Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: William Beckford First published: English translation, 1786; original French edition, 1787 as Vathek Genre: Novel Locale: Arabia Plot: Gothic Time: The past Vathek (VAH-tehk), an Arabian sultan, a man addicted to sensory pleasures who indulges in black magic. The Giaour gives him the key to the dark kingdom in response to human sacrifices. He […]

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Vanity Fair Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: William Makepeace Thackeray First published: serial, 1847–1848; book, 1848 Genre: Novel Locale: England and Europe Plot: Social satire Time: Early nineteenth century Rebecca (Becky) Sharp, an intelligent, beautiful, self-centered, and grasping woman whose career begins as an orphaned charity pupil at Miss Pinkerton’s School for girls and continues through a series of attempted seductions, […]

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Vanessa Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Hugh Walpole First published: 1933 Genre: Novel Locale: England Plot: Historical Time: Late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Vanessa Paris, the beautiful daughter of Adam and Margaret Paris. She is engaged to her cousin Benjie, but because of his wildness, their marriage is postponed for two years. Her father’s death forces her to postpone […]

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The Valley Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Rolando Hinojosa First published: The Valley (1983; revised from Estampas del valle y otras obras/ Sketches of the Valley and Other Works, 1973) Genre: Novel Locale: The Texas-Mexico border Plot: Social realism Time: The 1920’s to the 1970’s Rafa Buenrostro (RRAH-fah bwehn-ROH-stroh), whose name means “goodface,” the autobiographical narrator in many of the sketches. […]

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The Valley of Decision Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Edith Wharton First published: 1902 Genre: Novel Locale: Italy Plot: Historical Time: The late eighteenth century Odo Valsecca (oh-doh vahl-SEH-kah), a cousin to the Duke of Pianura. Odo lives in neglect and poverty until, at the age of nine, his noble father dies and Odo is introduced to life at the duke’s court. The […]

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The Vagabond Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Colette First published: La Vagabonde, 1911 (English translation, 1954) Genre: Novel Locale: France Plot: Psychological realism Time: Six months during the early 1900’s Renée Néré (reh-NAY nay-RAY), the narrator, a French mime and a dancer. Intelligent and largely self-aware, she divorced her husband after eight years of his adulteries and cruelties and has been […]

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V. Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Thomas Pynchon First published: 1963 Genre: Novel Locale: Italy, France, Egypt, German Southwest Africa, Malta, Virginia, and New York Plot: Satire Time: 1898–1956; primarily times of worldwide political crisis Benny Profane, a former Navy man and self-styled “schlemiel” who wanders purposelessly the streets of New York, Norfolk, and Malta. His chief activity is “yo-yoing” […]

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Utopia Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Sir Thomas More First published: De Optimo Reipublicae Statu, deque Nova Insula Utopia, 1516 (English translation, 1551) Genre: Novel Locale: Antwerp, Belgium, and the imaginary commonwealth of Utopia Plot: Social morality Time: Reign of Henry VII of England Raphael Hythloday, a philosophical traveler who has returned to Europe from Utopia, a far-off island adjacent […]

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U.S.A. Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: John Dos Passos First published: 1937 (includes The 42nd Parallel, 1930; 1919, 1932; and The Big Money, 1936) Genre: Novel Locale: United States Plot: Historical Time: 1900–1935 Fenian O’Hara McCreary, called Fainy Mac, a young Irishman who learns the printing trade from an uncle. His uncle’s bankruptcy puts McCreary out of a job and […]

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An Unsuitable Job for a Woman Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: P. D. James First published: 1972 Genre: Novel Locale: London and Cambridge, England Plot: Detective and mystery Time: The 1970’sThe 1970’s Cordelia Gray, the protagonist, a twenty-one-year-old detective on her first case. She inherited Pryde’s Detective Agency when her senior partner, Bernie Pryde, committed suicide. Reared in a succession of foster homes and a […]

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The Unvanquished Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: William Faulkner First published: 1938 Genre: Novel Locale: Mississippi and Alabama Plot: Bildungsroman Time: The Civil War and the Reconstruction period John Sartoris, a colonel in the confederate army. Sartoris, who is from Mississippi and devoted to the antebellum South, twice raises volunteers from the Jefferson area to fight in the Civil War. Although […]

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The Unlit Lamp Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Radclyffe Hall First published: 1924 Genre: Novel Locale: Seabourne, on the southern coast of England Plot: Bildungsroman Time: The beginning of the twentieth century Joan Ogden, the protagonist. The oldest daughter of a retired British colonel and his pretentious wife, Joan has one sister and few friends. Her life is circumscribed by the domestic […]

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The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Robert Coover First published: 1968 Genre: Novel Locale: An American city Plot: Psychological Time: The 1950’s and the “UBA Years LVI and CLVII” J. Henry Waugh, a fifty-six-year-old accountant for the firm of Dunkelmann, Zauber Zifferblatt (German for “Obscurantist, Magic Clock-face”). He is the creator (“J. Henry Waugh” is a play on “Jehovah”) of […]

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Union Street Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Pat Barker First published: 1982 Genre: Novel Locale: A depressed inner-city neighborhood in northeastern England Plot: Social realism Time: Winter, 1973 Kelly Brown, an eleven-year-old schoolgirl who lives with her older sister Linda and their mother. “Uncle” Arthur, the latest in a succession of her mother’s male friends, also lives with the family for […]

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The Unicorn Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Iris Murdoch First published: 1963 Genre: Novel Locale: A remote region in western Ireland Plot: Love Time: The early 1960’s Hannah Crean-Smith, nominally the mistress of Gaze Castle, a large and forbidding nineteenth century house situated near the black sandstone cliffs of western Ireland’s coastline. Hannah, a lovely golden-haired woman who is no longer […]

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Unholy Loves Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Joyce Carol Oates First published: 1979 Genre: Novel Locale: Woodslee, New York Plot: Stream of consciousness Time: The 1970’s Brigit Stott, a professor of English and the only novelist at the relatively prestigious Woodslee University, 256 miles north of New York City. Thirty-eight years old, thin, sharp-featured, and attractive in a mysterious way, Brigit […]

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The Unfortunate Traveller: Or, The Life of Jack Wilton Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Thomas Nashe First published: 1594 Genre: Novel Locale: England and the Continent Plot: Picaresque Time: Reign of King Henry VIII Jack Wilton, a page to Henry VIII of England. Bored with his life, he leaves King Henry’s service to become a soldier of fortune. Because he is a bright and merry lad, he has […]

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Undine Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Friedrich de la Motte-Fouqué First published: 1811 (English translation, 1818) Genre: Novel Locale: Austria Plot: Symbolism Time: The Middle Ages Undine (EWN-dee-nuh), a water spirit, daughter of a Mediterranean water prince and foster daughter of a poor fisherman and his wife. Fifteen years earlier, she appeared, as a child of three or four, at […]

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Underworld Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Donald Richard DeLillo First published: 1997 Genre: Novel Locale: Bronx, New York; Phoenix, Arizona; a Jesuit school in Minnesota Plot: Epic Time: 1951 to the mid-1990s Nick Shay, a guarded and quasimysterious figure, even to his own wife. Shay was born in the Bronx borough of New York City to Irish and Italian parents […]

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The Underground Man Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Ross Macdonald First published: 1971 Genre: Novel Locale: California Plot: Detective and mystery Time: The 1960’s Lew Archer, the narrator, a private detective and former police officer who is middle-aged and divorced. Not a typical violent hard-boiled detective, Archer is more a questioner than a doer, humane and sensitive to clients, victims, and even […]

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The Underdogs Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Mariano Azuela First published: Los de abajo, serial, 1915; book, 1916 (English translation, 1929) Genre: Novel Locale: Mexico Plot: Historical Time: 1914–1915 Demetrio Macías (day-MAY-tree-oh mah-SEE-ahs), a Mexican Indian who fights against government forces in the Mexican Revolution. Demetrio rebels against the government as a result of the treatment he receives at the hands […]

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Under Western Eyes Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Joseph Conrad First published: 1911 Genre: Novel Locale: St. Petersburg, Russia, and Geneva, Switzerland Plot: Psychological realism Time: Early twentieth century Kirylo Sidorovich Razumov (kih-RIH-loh sih-DOH-roh-vihch rah-ZEW-mov), an idealist and a student at St. Petersburg University. His background is strange and unknown; he has a mysterious benefactor but no family. Returning to his rooms […]

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Under Two Flags Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Ouida First published: 1867 Genre: Novel Locale: London and environs, the Continent, and Algeria Plot: Sentimental Time: Early nineteenth century The Honorable Bertie Cecil (behr-TEE seh-SEEL), a young nobleman and an officer in the Life Guards who travels in fashionable circles. Although he is deep in debt, he is a gallant young man, loved […]

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Under the Yoke Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Ivan Vazov First published: Pod igoto, serial, 1889–1890; book, 1893 (English translation, 1893) Genre: Novel Locale: Bulgaria Plot: Historical Time: 1875–1876 Ivan Kralich (ih-VAHN KRAH-lihch), a Bulgarian patriot who has escaped after eight years of imprisonment by the Turks. He eludes pursuit and, having changed his name, finds a job teaching school. He is […]

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Under the Volcano Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Malcolm Lowry First published: 1947 Genre: Novel Locale: Quauhnahuac (Cuernavaca), Mexico Plot: Psychological realism Time: November 1, 1939 Geoffrey Firmin, formerly the British consul to Quauhnahuac, Mexico. He has resigned from the consular service and attempts to find a way not to return to England. When Geoffrey’s mother died, Geoffrey’s father remarried, and shortly […]

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Under the Greenwood Tree Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Thomas Hardy First published: 1872 Genre: Novel Locale: Rural England Plot: Pastoral Time: Nineteenth century Richard (Dick) Dewy, a young carter with musical inclinations and talent. One Christmas season when he goes caroling with the church choir, for whom he plays accompaniment on his violin, he falls under the spell of Fancy Day, the […]

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Under the Sun of Satan Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Georges Bernanos First published: Sous le soleil de Satan, 1926 (The Star of Satan, 1927; better known as Under the Sun of Satan) Genre: Novel Locale: The rural northwestern area of France Plot: Religious Time: The beginning of the twentieth century Germaine “Mouchette” Malorthy (zhehr-MEHN mewSHEHT mah-lohr-TEE), a sixteen-year-old murderess and suicide. Small, nymphlike, […]

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Under Milk Wood: A Play for Voices Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Dylan Thomas First published: 1954 Genre: Play Locale: Llaregyb, also called Llareggub, a mythical seaside village in Wales Plot: Domestic realism Time: Indeterminate The Reverend Eli Jenkins, the town’s minister, whose love for the fishing village of Milk Wood is expressed by his prayers and poetry as well as his life’s hobby, writing a […]

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Under Fire: The Story of a Squad Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Henri Barbusse First published: Le Feu: Journal d’une escouade, 1916 (English translation, 1917) Genre: Novel Locale: France Plot: Political Time: 1914–1915 Volpatte (vohl-PAT), a square-faced, jaundiced-looking, broken-nosed man who is hospitalized after almost losing his ears but returns bitter about the men in the hospital, both the malingering patients and the arrogant staff members. […]

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Uncle Vanya Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Anton Chekhov First published: Dyadya Vanya, 1897 (English translation, 1914) Genre: Play Locale: Russia Plot: Impressionistic realism Time: Late nineteenth century Alexander Serebrakov (ah-lehk-SAHN-dr seh-reh-brahKOHF), a retired professor who takes up residence with his young wife at their small estate in the country. After many years of writing books about art, his life is […]

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Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Or, Life Among the Lowly Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Harriet Beecher Stowe First published: 1851–1852, serial; 1852, book Genre: Novel Locale: Kentucky and Mississippi Plot: Social realism Time: Mid-nineteenth century Uncle Tom, a slave. Although he is good and unrebellious, he is sold by his owner. After serving a second kind but im-provident master, he comes under the ownership of brutal Simon Legree […]

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Uncle Silas: A Tale of Bartram-Haugh Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu First published: 1864 Genre: Novel Locale: England Plot: Gothic Time: Nineteenth century Austin Ruthyn, a wealthy recluse and widower. He is a Swedenborgian who devotes his time to scientific and literary studies. When he dies, his will appoints several men as trustees for his estate and places his daughter Maud […]

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Milan Kundera First published: Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí, 1984 (English translation, 1984) Genre: Novel Locale: Czechoslovakia and Switzerland Plot: Political Time: The 1960’s to the 1970’s Tomas (TAW-mahsh), a noted Czechoslovak surgeon and indefatigable philanderer. At the novel’s pivotal chronological moment (the summer of 1968, when the Russians invade and occupy Czechoslovakia), Tomas is forty […]

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The Unbearable Bassington Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Saki First published: 1912 Genre: Novel Locale: London, England Plot: Satire Time: Early 1900’s Francesca Bassington, a heartless, scheming society matron of London who has an attractive home and a Van der Meulen painting. She wants her son Comus to marry Emmeline Chetrof, heiress to her house, and to go into politics. The news […]

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Ulysses Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: James Joyce First published: 1922 Genre: Novel Locale: Dublin, Ireland Plot: Psychological realism Time: June 16, 1904 Stephen Dedalus, a proud and sensitive young Irishman. He is a writer and teacher called Kinch (from “kinchin,” meaning “child”) by one of his friends. In his search for the nature and meaning of life, Stephen examines […]

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Ultramarine Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Malcolm Lowry First published: 1933; revised, 1962 Genre: Novel Locale: Tsjang-Tsjang harbor, China, and Merseyside, England Plot: Social realism Time: c. 1927 Eugene Dana Hilliot, the novel’s center of consciousness, an upper-middle-class youth, half-Norwegian and half-English, taking his first voyage as a deckhand. Sensitive, creative, out of place, and out of his class among […]

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The Ugly Duchess Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Lion Feuchtwanger First published: Die hässliche Herzogin Margarete Maultasch, 1923 (English translation, 1928) Genre: Novel Locale: Central Europe Plot: Historical Time: Fourteenth century Duchess Margarete (mahr-gah-RAY-teh), Heinrich’s daughter, fat, shrewd-eyed, and apelike but intelligent and learned. She attempts to compensate for her ugliness by ruling her lands with strength and skill. She romantically idealizes […]

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Ubu Roi Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Alfred Jarry First published: 1896 (English translation, 1951) Genre: Play Locale: An imaginary Poland Plot: Absurdist Time: Unspecified Père Ubu (par EW-bew), the former king of Aragon, captain of the Dragoons, count of Sandomir, and, later, king of Poland. He is an obese, smelly grub, with an enormous paunch, who carries a walking stick […]

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Tzili: The Story of a Life Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Aharon Appelfeld First published: Kutonet veha-Pasim, 1983 (English translation, 1983) Genre: Novel Locale: Eastern Europe, from Poland or Russia to Yugoslavia Plot: Allegory Time: The Holocaust, from the late 1930’s to the mid-1940’s Tzili Kraus, a young, provincial Jewish girl, plain, quiet, and not very bright. Tzili is disliked by her family for her […]

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Typical American Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Gish Jen First published: 1991 Genre: Novel Locale: China and the United States Plot: Social realism Time: Late 1940’s to early 1970’s Ralph Chang, originally known as Yifeng (Intent on the Peak) in China but given the name Ralph (which he discovers means “a kind of dog”) in America. He is a professor of […]

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Typhoon Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Joseph Conrad First published: 1902 Genre: Novella Locale: the China Seas Plot: Adventure Time: The 1890’s Tom MacWhirr, the captain of the steamer Nan-Shan.Dutiful, calculating, mechanical, mature, and effectual, the main character of the story does his job correctly although he does so without any manifest confidence from the men serving under him. His […]

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Typee Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Herman Melville First published: 1846 Genre: Novel Locale: the Marquesas Islands Plot: Adventure Time: Mid-nineteenth century Tom Herman Melville), an American sailor on the whaler Dolly who, with his friend Toby, jumps ship at Nukuheva and immediately contracts a disease that makes his leg swell and become very painful. When their food runs out, […]

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Two Women Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Alberto Moravia First published: La ciociara, 1957 (English translation, 1958) Genre: Novel Locale: Sant’Eufemia, Italy Plot: Social realism Time: 1943–1944 Cesira (cheh-ZEE-rah), the narrator. Readers learn about her not only from her direct descriptions of herself but also from all she has to say about others. Her ability to articulate her feelings and her […]

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Two Wings to Veil My Face Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Leon Forrest First published: 1983 Genre: Novel Locale: the Deep South Plot: Magical realism Time: From before the Civil War to the mid-twentieth century Nathan Witherspoon, a young black man born in 1937. He has a college education. He transcribes the family reminiscences of Sweetie Reed Witherspoon. Nathan has a special relationship with Sweetie […]

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Two Trains Running Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: August Wilson First published: 1991, in Theater magazine Genre: Play Locale: A restaurant in a ghetto of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Plot: Psychological realism Time: 1969 Memphis Lee, whose restaurant forms the play’s only set and who has struggled to build a life in Pittsburgh after whites forced him off his Jackson, Mississippi, farm in 1931. […]

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2666 Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Roberto Bolaño Ávalos First published: 2004 (English translation, 2008) Genre: Novel Locale: Europe; the United States; and Santa Teresa, Mexico Plot: Mystery and detective Time: 1920–2001 Benno von Archimboldi, a famous and reclusive German writer. Born in Prussia in 1920 as Hans Reiter, Archimboldi is incredibly tall even at a young age, a fact […]

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Two Thousand Seasons Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Ayi Kwei Armah First published: 1973 Genre: Novel Locale: Western Sudan, Ghana, and elsewhere in Africa Plot: Epic Time: 1000–1900 The narrator, an omnipresent griot (poet-historian) and the voice of traditional African culture, specifically that of Ghana. Masculine in tone but speaking in the first person plural (“we”), the narrator is confident in his […]

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2001: A Space Odyssey Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Arthur C. Clarke First published: 1968 Genre: Novel Locale: Prehistoric Africa, the Moon, and near Saturn Plot: Science fiction Time: Three million years b.c.e. and 2001 c.e. Moon-Watcher, a “man-ape” of the Pleistocene geologic era, hairy and muscular. At almost five feet in height, he is unusually tall for his dying race of cave-dwelling […]

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Two Solitudes Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Hugh MacLennan First published: 1945 Genre: Novel Locale: the Saint Lawrence River valley, Montreal, Nova Scotia, and Maine Plot: Regional Time: 1917–1939 Athanase Tallard (ah-tah-NAHZ tah-LAHR), an elderly French Canadian aristocrat, seigneur of Saint-Marc-des-Erables, and member of Parliament. As a federal politician, he is in an invidious position: Elected by French-speaking Catholic Quebec, he […]

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The Two Noble Kinsmen Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Authors: John Fletcher and William Shakespeare First published: 1634 Genre: Play Locale: Athens and Thebes Plot: Tragicomedy Time: Age of legend Palamon (PAL-uh-mon), a young knight, the nephew of Creon, the king of Thebes. Palamon sees and abhors the corruption of his uncle’s government. With his cousin and closest friend, Arcite, he plans to leave […]

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The Two Gentlemen of Verona Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: William Shakespeare First published: 1623 Genre: Play Locale: Italy Plot: Comedy Time: Sixteenth century Valentine (VAL-ehn-tin), a witty young gentleman of Verona. Scoffing at his lovesick friend, Proteus, he goes with his father to Milan, where he enters the court of the duke and promptly falls in love with Silvia, the ruler’s daughter. He […]

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Two for the Seesaw Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: William Gibson First published: 1959, in The Seesaw Log Genre: Play Locale: New York City Plot: Tragicomedy Time: The late 1950’s Jerry Ryan, an attorney from Nebraska. A melancholy man of thirty-three, he fled Omaha and an unhappy marriage to start over in New York City. Jerry owes much of his success to the […]

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Twilight Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Stephenie Meyer First published: Twilight, 2005; New Moon, 2006; Eclipse, 2007; Breaking Dawn, 2008 Genre: Novel Locale: Forks, Washington; Phoenix; Rome Plot: Romance, popular Time: 2001–2006 Isabella “Bella” Marie Swan, protagonist of the series. A brunette with pale skin, she is seventeen years old when she arrives in Forks, Washington, at the beginning of […]

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Twenty Years After Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Authors: Auguste Maquet and Alexandre Dumas, père First published: Vingt ans apres, 1845 (English translation, 1846) Genre: Novel Locale: France and England Plot: Historical Time: Mid-seventeenth century D’Artagnan (dahr-tahn-YAHN), the clever and resourceful hero, a lieutenant in the Musketeers. He succeeds in almost all of his pseudohistorical adventures, even against Cardinal Mazarin’s final treachery. Porthos […]

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Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Jules Verne First published: Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (1870, serial form, 1869–1870; English translation, 1873; substantially revised English edition, 1965) Genre: Novel Locale: At sea Plot: Science fiction Time: 1866–1867 Captain Nemo (NEE-moh), a mysterious man who designs and builds the submarine Nautilus on a desert island. It provides its own electricity […]

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Twenty-seven Wagons Full of Cotton: A Mississippi Delta Comedy Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Tennessee Williams First published: 1945 Genre: Play Locale: Blue Mountain, Mississippi Plot: Tragicomedy Time: The 1930’s or 1940’s Flora Meighan, the young wife of Jake Meighan. Blonde, buxom, seductive, and mindless, Flora is childish and childlike, behaving like a petulant, demanding, spoiled child while exuding a vulnerability and dependence that make her a stereotypical […]

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