The Witches of Eastwick Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1984

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Psychological symbolism

Time of work: The 1960’s

Locale: Eastwick, Rhode Island

Characters DiscussedAlexandra Spofford

Alexandra Witches of Eastwick, TheSpofford, a large, gray-blonde divorcée and mother. She and two fellow divorcées are convinced they have magic powers and explore witchcraft as a form of women’s liberation. Together they form an alliance in rebellion against the small-town conventions they believe have inhibited them. Their magic powers, however, not only have a liberating effect but also create mischief. Alexandra turns her former husband into polychrome dust and keeps him in a jar in the cupboard, and the witches raise a thunderstorm to punish some youngsters who call Alexandra a hag. Alexandra is the leader of the coven of three witches because she is the oldest and the earthiest, and she relates most strongly to nature, from which the witches believe they derive their special powers. She is also a sculptor, working in the earthy medium of clay to make figures of female sensuality she calls “bubbies.” The powers that she and the other witches develop eventually lead to mayhem and even murder. They pursue the satanic Darryl Van Horne, and when he chooses Jennifer, a younger woman, they conjure her death. Chastened and guilty, Alexandra marries an art instructor who takes her to Taos, New Mexico.

Jane Smart

Jane Smart, the second witch. She is dark and short, and her special talent is music, especially the cello. Like her two friends, she neglects her children in favor of the powerful sisterhood of the witches, and she uses her magic powers in dubious ways. For example, she transforms her former husband into a dried herb hanging in the cellar. In addition, she and the other two women perform such tricks as breaking an old woman’s string of pearls, turning tennis balls into bats and toads, and killing innocent puppies and squirrels. The coven of witches disbands after they compete for the attentions of Darryl Van Horne and place a death curse on Jennifer, a young unmarried woman whom Darryl selects over them. Ultimately, Jane uses her powers to attract a new husband, a staid scion of an old Boston family.

Sukie Rougemont

Sukie Rougemont, a redhead, the youngest and most recently divorced of the three witches. She also neglects maternal responsibilities to pursue her talents as a writer and to develop her magical powers, which she already has used to transform her former husband into a placemat. Free from patriarchal structures and traditional puritan controls, Sukie has a love affair with Felicia’s husband, Clyde; participates with the other two witches in orgies with Darryl Van Horne; and uses her magic powers to inflict illness on her rival, Jennifer. Demoralized, Sukie attracts a salesman of word processors. She writes rather mechanical romantic novels.

Darryl Van Horne

Darryl Van Horne, a mysterious, wealthy bachelor who is new to Eastwick. A manipulative psychopath, he entices the witches to his mansion, which he has decorated with black sheets, couches, and walls and where they frolic together, including engaging in an orgy in a hot tub on Halloween. Although he prides himself on his skills as a critic, unlike the witches he is neither creative nor procreative. He may be a metaphysical fantasy created by the witches themselves. Whether imaginary or real, Van Horne is the devil. He may have murdered Jennifer for her money. He runs off to New York afterward with both her fortune and her brother. Unlike the witches, Van Horne has no sympathy for the natural world. He is surrounded by artificial creations such as tennis courts, stereos, and vinyl hamburgers. He denounces nature and all of its works in a sermon he gives at the Unitarian Church titled “This Is a Terrible Creation.” Because of his existential emptiness, he cannot appreciate, for all their moral ambiguity, the beauties of nature, art, or the women of Eastwick.

Brenda Parsley

Brenda Parsley, a married woman and critic of the witches. She takes over the Unitarian Church, running it more efficiently than her husband, but in the process becomes a dreadful woman. She receives her comeuppance when bumblebees and butterflies come out of her mouth as she denounces the witches from her pulpit.

Felicia Gabriel

Felicia Gabriel, the mother of Christopher and Jenny Gabriel and ill-tempered wife of the editor of the local newspaper. When she is especially outraged, parrot feathers, dried wasps, and bits of eggshell spew from her mouth. A critic of the witches, she considers herself a virtuous woman devoted to good causes, but she has reserves of malicious energy.

Jennifer Gabriel

Jennifer Gabriel, an unmarried X-ray technician who rivals the witches for the affections of Darryl Van Horne. Soon after marrying Darryl, she dies of cancer, which may have been caused by the witches, who stick her facsimile with pins.

BibliographyBloom, Harold, ed. John Updike. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. In his introduction, Bloom commends the artful style of The Witches of Eastwick, focusing especially on the characterizations of the three witches. To Bloom, this is more than a satiric novel; it reaches into horror for its powerful effect. Though Bloom praises the novel’s concluding passages, he suggests a stylistic flaw in them as well.Campbell, Jeff H. Updike’s Novels: Thorns Spell a Word. Wichita Falls, Tex.: Midwestern State University Press, 1987. Chapter 5 contrasts Updike’s Marry Me: A Romance (1976), Couples, and The Witches of Eastwick. Campbell focuses first on the sociological aspects of these novels, and especially on the deterioration of marriage. With regard to The Witches of Eastwick, Campbell discusses themes of feminism, the demythologizing of Satan, and the balancing of self between the internal and external worlds.Christian Science Monitor. LXXVI, July 18, 1984, p. 21.Library Journal. CIX, May 1, 1984, p. 917.Los Angeles Times Book Review. May 13, 1984, p. 1.The New York Review of Books. XXXI, June 14, 1984, p. 3.The New York Times Book Review. LXXXIX, May 13, 1984, p. 1.The New Yorker. LX, June 25, 1984, p. 107.Newman, Judie. John Updike. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988. Newman suggests that The Witches of Eastwick questions the relationship between imaginative power and political power. Her analysis thoroughly investigates the story’s major characters, and she concludes by demonstrating how the novel might be read as commentary on the Vietnam War.Newsweek. CIII, May 7, 1984, p. 92.Publishers Weekly. CCXXV, March 23, 1984, p. 66.Schiff, James A. John Updike Revisited. Boston: Twayne, 1998. Schiff’s highly readable overview of Updike’s prose works provides commentary on his best-selling books, as well as his lesser known works. A chapter is devoted to a critical treatment of Couples and The Witches of Eastwick, which Schiff groups together under the heading “Marriage Novels.”Time. CXXIII, May 7, 1984, p. 113.Times Literary Supplement. September 28, 1984, p. 1084.Verduin, Kathleen. “Sex, Nature, and Dualism in The Witches of Eastwick.” Modern Language Quarterly 46 (September, 1985): 293-315. Verduin considers the heated controversy Updike’s work generated among feminists and demonstrates how the author highlights the complicity between women and nature in the novel, especially through the vehicle of witchcraft. A scholarly treatment of women’s shifting roles in society as revealed by Updike’s various characterizations of women.The Wall Street Journal. CCIII, June 20, 1984, p. 28.Welsh, J. M. “Bewitched and Bewildered Over Eastwick.’” Literature and Film Quarterly 15, no. 3 (1987): 152-154. Contrasts Updike’s novel with the 1987 film version. Though Welsh regards the novel as superior, he sees the ending as weak. He concludes that the film has plenty of popular appeal but little connection with the apparent concerns of the novel’s author.
Categories: Characters