Notes on Characters from I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

Joanne Greenberg
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I Never Promised You a Rose Garden Major Characters

Jacob Blau: Jacob is Deborah's father. He is a Polish immigrant who works hard as an accountant to provide for his family. He has a hard time dealing with Deborah's illness because he thinks it means that he failed her somehow as a parent. Their relationship is one of surface images. As long as Deborah seems fine on the surface, Jacob is happy, but Deborah feels that he doesn't understand her at all. He is quick-tempered and often seems as if he would rather hide from the ugly truth and hope it goes away instead of dealing with it headon the way that his wife does.

Esther Blau: Esther is Deborah's mother. Esther loves Deborah and wants her to get well ; it is because of Esther's firmness in their decision to send Deborah to the hospital that Jacob doesn't bring Deborah home as he wishes. Esther had known for a while that there was something wrong with Deborah which all her mothering and trying to smooth over the rough spots in Deborah's life couldn't possibly fix. She is ironically relieved by Deborah's suicide attempt because it proves that Deborah needs help, and so now she can be sent somewhere to get that help and have a chance at recovery.

Deborah Blau: Deborah Blau is a 16-year-old Jewish girl suffering from extreme mental illness. Her schizophrenia is the result of years of loneliness and misunderstanding all covered over by the need to pretend that everything is fine to please everyone else. After three years of intense therapy in a mental hospital, she begins to come back to the world and decides to give living in reality a try.

Dr. Fried (Furii): Dr. Fried is a German woman esteemed in the field of psychology. She works at the hospital where Deborah is admitted, and she becomes Deborah's doctor. Further into their treatment, Deborah nicknames Dr. Fried Furii because of the fiery power of her insight.

Suzy Blau: Suzy is Deborah's younger sister. Deborah carries great guilt about her younger sister because she imagines that she tried to kill Suzy when she was a baby. This false memory is a fantasy that Deborah created as a five-year-old from the feelings of anger she felt toward the new baby. While Deborah's in the hospital, Suzy still feels as if her parents are giving Deborah more attention because they are constantly arguing or worrying about her.

Grandfather (Pop): Deborah's over-bearing grandfather on her mother's side is an immigrant from Latvia. He came to America to make a fortune and scorn all those who had ever looked down on his poverty. Once he became rich, he bought a huge house and created this appearance of gentility and breeding in his daughters. Image and vengeance are important to him, and he sees Deborah, his first grandchild, as the way to show the entire world the greatness of his family. He dotes on her and refuses to believe that she is ill until her parents commit her to the hospital.

Minor Characters

Anterrabae: Anterrabae is one of the gods of Yr, and he is eternally falling through darkness. His hair and fingertips are fire and as he falls, the flame tips of his hair curl in the wind. Deborah realizes that she created this god based on the image of Milton's Satan in an illustration she saw in Paradise Lost.

Lactamaeon: He is the black god of Yr who rides a black horse. He is usually the sarcastic voice.

Censor: The Censor is another part of the reality that Deborah has created for herself. The Censor began as a way to protect Yr from being revealed to the world, but eventually he became a facet of both the world and of Yr. The Censor took over control of all that Deborah said and became a dictator.

The Collect: The Collect are a group of voices and images that Deborah has amassed from reality over the years and lumped into one large, critical group that exists in Yr. The Collect taunt Deborah with her own self-critical thoughts, but it isn't until she's been in therapy for three years that she realizes that the only power they have over her is that which she gives them with her own self-hate and criticism.

Hobbs: He is an intern on the Disturbed ward; the patients see that he fears them because he knows that they are not so far removed from his own state of mind. They taunt him and when he kills himself, they are jealous that he has escaped life while they have not.

Carla: Carla is a patient on the Disturbed ward, and she and Deborah become friends. Carla is crazy because her mother killed herself and her brother and Carla was wounded, but lived. She and Deborah bond during their time as patients and they help each other as much as they can through the battles of their own insanity.

Doris Rivera: Doris Rivera was mythical to Deborah because she was a patient who got well enough to go out into the world. Hearing about Doris terrifies the D ward so much that they either have to be put in cold packs or isolation rooms because the thought of the real world is so frightening. When Doris returns to the ward, Deborah asks her why she came back and if the world was just too hard.

Ellis: He replaces Hobbs as an attendant on the Disturbed ward after Hobbs commits suicide. The patients see that Ellis is not only afraid of them, but he also is a religious fanatic, and he despises them. They call him Hobbs' Leviathan to torment him until McPherson asks Deb to stop giving the new guy a hard time.

Sylvia: Sylvia is a woman on the Disturbed ward who doesn't usually speak. Her biggest connection to Deborah is that they were both left in cold packs in the same room for a whole night, and Sylvia spoke kindly to Deborah until the attendants came to remove them from the packs.

McPherson: McPherson is one of the few attendants on the Disturbed ward who is unafraid of the patients. He treats them well and makes them feel like his equals rather than looking down on them for their illness; therefore, when he asks Deborah to be nice to Ellis, she does it.

Miss Coral: Miss Coral is an incredibly violent old woman who comes to the D ward. While she's there, she teaches Deborah the fragments of Greek and Latin that she can remember, and in this way, the two become friends.

Dr. Royson: He is the doctor Deborah sees in Dr. Fried's absence. Deborah doesn't like Royson because he is too cold and is more worried about being right than about helping her get well.

Dr. Halle: He is a kind doctor who becomes the D ward administrator. Deborah likes him because he doesn't brush off the patients.

Carmen: Carmen is a patient on B ward whose father removes her from the hospital instead of letting her stay and get help. Carmen commits suicide shortly after she leaves, and Deborah is sad because she knows that if Carmen had stayed, she could have gotten better. Seeing what happened to Carmen makes Deborah grateful that her parents let her stay in the hospital.

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