The Works of Love Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1952

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Regional

Time of work: The 1880’s to the 1930’s

Locale: Nebraska, California, and Chicago

Characters DiscussedWill Jennings Brady

Will Works of Love, TheJennings Brady, a hardworking man who holds a number of jobs, but none for very long. A onetime handyman, night clerk in a hotel, hotel manager, chicken farmer, egg entrepreneur, and waybill sorter, he finally ends up as a department store Santa Claus. The son of Nebraska pioneers, orphaned at an early age, he lacks culture and education. A taciturn and kind but naïve man who does not drink, smoke, gamble, or swear, he embarks on a quest that takes him from the desolate western plains to Omaha, then to California, and on to Chicago in search of his airy dreams of wealth, happiness, and love. He attains none of these. Along the way, his fortunes briefly rise but mainly fall. As a husband and father, he is inept and incapable of understanding the needs of his family. After repeated failures, both as a businessman and as a family man, he turns Will, Jr., over to foster parents and heads for Chicago, where he dies penniless and alone, after falling into a sewage canal.

Ethel Czerny Bassett

Ethel Czerny Bassett, a widow who marries Will Brady. A Bohemian immigrant, quiet and somewhat religious, she relies on Will’s help after the death of her husband, owner of the hotel where Brady works. After marrying Brady, she goes with him on a honeymoon to Colorado Springs, but she spends her nights there rolled up in a sheet, afraid to consummate the marriage. After returning to Nebraska, she still experiences sexual problems. Although Brady provides her with many domestic amenities, including a large house, she does not sleep with him. After discovering Brady’s affair with a cigar-counter girl in Omaha, she leaves.

Will Brady, Jr.

Will Brady, Jr., a baby adopted by Will Brady after a runaway prostitute abandoned him on Brady’s doorstep. Despite his father’s ineptitude as a parent, Will, Jr., does well in school, joins the Boy Scouts, and cultivates a love for nature. Often perplexed by his father’s odd behavior, he spends much of his time living elsewhere, mostly in foster homes.

Gertrude Long

Gertrude Long, Will Brady’s second wife, a cigar-counter girl and a prostitute. The young and immature daughter of vaudevillian actors, she first meets Brady in a hotel in Omaha. Attracted initially by his good looks and unusual behavior, she lets the relationship develop and marries him, only to discover that he is no more able to fulfill her needs than he was able to fulfill those of his first wife. Brady, preoccupied with his dreams of riches and power, spends all of his energy tending to business. Meanwhile, she spends her time idly listening to phonograph records and going to cheap films. Although she pities Brady, she does not love him, and their relationship slowly disintegrates after she joins him in California and begins again to work as a prostitute.

T. P. Luckett

T. P. Luckett, an egg producer and the person in charge of the Union Pacific commissary in Omaha. He persuades Will Brady to give up his hotel job in Calloway and lends him money to move to Murdock to raise chickens for the carriage trade.

BibliographyCrump, Gail B. The Novels of Wright Morris. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1978. Crump explores Morris’s novels and provides an overview and analysis.Knoll, Robert. Conversations with Wright Morris: Critical Views and Responses. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1977. A collection of essays and interviews with Morris.Madden, David. Wright Morris. New York: Twayne, 1965. Madden provides a critical and interpretive study of Morris with a close reading of his major works, a solid bibliography, and complete notes and references. Useful for Morris’s work through the early 1960s. An expanded version in the Twayne Authors series by Joseph J. Wydeven was published in 1998.Morris, Wright. “Wright Morris and the American Century.” Interview by James Hamilton. Poets and Writers Magazine 25 (November-December, 1997): 23-31. Morris comments on his career and his writing and photography over a period of fifty years. He discusses creative imagination and the influence of the American nation on his writing.Morris, Wright. “Wright Morris: The Art of Fiction CXXV.” Paris Review 33 (Fall, 1991): 52-94. Interview by Olga Carlisle and Jodie Ireland. A lengthy interview with Morris on various aspects of his life and career.Morris, Wright. Writing My Life: An Autobiography. Santa Rosa, Calif.: Black Sparrow Press, 1993. Morris reflects on his life and career as a photographer, essayist, novelist, and critic.Wydeven, Joseph J. Wright Morris Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1998. The first complete examination of the work of Wright Morris as a novelist and a photographer. Wydeven includes a portfolio of photographs by Morris along with a detailed analysis of the novels, criticism, and memoir that Morris produced. Wydeven focuses on Morris’s principal theme of the American Dream and the promise of the American West.
Categories: Characters