Short Story Masterpieces Characters

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Short Story Masterpieces Summary & Study Guide Description

Short Story Masterpieces Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Short Story Masterpieces by Robert Penn Warren.

Michael Lowesappears in Impulse

Michael Lowes is the main character in the short story 'Impulse.' Michael believes himself to be a good person with strong morals and a kind heart. He has a job, but often finds himself unemployed and skipping town with his wife and children to avoid his debts. His friends and family, however, see Michael as a loser, whose spending habits and laziness leave the family penniless and near the point of poverty. Michael cares little for his children, as he worries more about the bill for their health than their health and cares little for his wife, whom he persistently lies to about where he is going and why. When Michael steals an item from a store on impulse, he feels he is treated badly when he is imprisoned, his friends refuse to vouch for him, and his wife divorces him, but in reality, Michael is simply treated to the consequences he deserves after a life of lies and deceit. Michael's view of himself leads to his downfall and shows the dire consequences of denial and self deceit. If Michael, even at an early age when he was first caught stealing, could have seen his faults, he would likely have been in a better place later in life.

Bruno 'Lefty' Bicekappears in A Bottle of Milk for Mother

Bruno 'Lefty' Bicek is a young Polish boy who finds himself the prime suspect of a murder. As a member of the Baldhead True American Social and Athletic Club, a local Chicago gang, Lefty is a small time criminal in the neighborhood, and a left-handed batter for the baseball team. He is also involved in the local boxing club, and aims to go pro. Lefty is originally arrested for jackrolling, or robbing a local Polish man at gunpoint. However, through the course of the interview, it is revealed that the man has died of a gunshot wound. Lefty is proud of his Polish heritage, and seeks to prove himself as more than just a punk kid. When he does, he is a murderer. Lefty knows his crimes have left him alienated from the gang, and that in the end, his search to prove himself has left him a criminal. To the police, Lefty is considered a low Polish immigrant and proof of why the Polish do not have the power of the Irish in Chicago. Lefty, to them, is merely a criminal, and although he has talent, he is merely one of many who will spend the remaining years of his life in jail. Lefty's character seems to symbolize wasted youth in American gangs, both past and present.

Jack Loreyappears in Torch Song

Jack Lorey is a kind and caring man in 'Torch Song.' Originally from Ohio, Jack moves to New York in his mid-thirties and meets Joan Harris, a woman who becomes his lifelong friend. Jack's story is told through his meetings with Joan over the course of several years. Jack marries twice, has a son, and at one point joins the military and serves his country. Jack realizes Joan has a series of bad relationships, but it is not until the end of the story that Jack realizes the vampire nature of Joan, in that she seems to feed off the deaths of others. Jack is quick to tell his friend he will call her as he is dying, showing he finally understands the true nature of his friend, but his tears and fear also show Jack to be a sensitive man who fears his own demise.

Joan Harrisappears in Torch Song

Joan Harris is a friend of Jack Lorey in Torch Song, and is a woman of questionable ethics and morals. Joan, from the beginning, has a series of relationships with men that are questionable and dangerous. Her loves include a drunk who passes out in public, a count who abuses drugs, beats her, and forces her into drug dealing, another drunk, Hugh, who is abusive, a German alcoholic who is also abusive, an ill Englishman named Stephen, Pete, who steals her money, and a host of other men who seem to Jack to be wrong for Joan. In the end, however, it is revealed that Joan chooses these men not for their abusive behaviors towards her, but for their abusive behaviors towards themselves. Joan seems to thrive on the deaths of others as a way to preserve her own youth and her own identity. Rather than lose lovers due to infidelity or other reasons, Joan chooses to lose hers to death. Her character is almost a black widow, but instead of killing her lovers, Joan simply allows them to kill themselves in her presence. She is not cruel in this, but instead seems to see herself almost as an angel of death. She does not cause the death, but merely watches as it occurs.

Foiralappears in Witch's Money

Foiral is a simple man, who lives a simple life in his village, of which he is chief. However, when a stranger arrives, Foiral is shown to be more shrewd and less simple than he originally appears. When Foiral is first introduced, he is fearful of the stranger, showing him to be reluctant to change. However, when money is introduced, Foiral is shown to be more shrewd, in that he sells his property for more than it is worth. When he is taught how to cash a check, however, and discovers he has lost part of his money in bank fees, Foiral is shown as a cruel man, who is willing to kill another human being for a mere 100 dollars. It is clear that, as simple as Foiral seems to be, he is easily corruptible, and quick to put the value of money over that of human life.

Carlierappears in Outpost of Progress

Carlier is the assistant chief of the outpost station in Africa. He is tall man with long and thin legs who is a military man by nature. As a non-commissioned officer of the Calvary, Carlier is used to civilization. He has only come to the outpost because his family, tired of his laziness, has given him no other option. He is moody, and tends to be quarrelsome. When pushed into a situation where civilization is far away, Carlier is the first to crack under the pressure. He is cruel to the locals, and does not seem to understand the dangers of the area. In the end, his own anger and bitterness cause him to fight with his partner, Kayerts, and lead to his death.

Kayertsappears in Outpost of Progress

Kayerts is the chief of an outpost station in Africa. Kayerts is a short man and heavy set. He is at the outpost station only for his daughter, who is soon to wed and needs money for the dowry. As a widower, Kayerts seeks to earn money while his daughter is raised by his sisters. Originally a clerk, Kayerts took the position for the pay. Once in Africa, however, it is clear Kayerts is not suited for the life. He is uncaring about the local villagers, and does not seem to understand the dangers of the area. His complete acceptance of civilization leads to his rejection of the more adventurous life of the outpost station. In the end, his inability to tolerate the area and the consequences of life in uncivilized society leads to his madness and his killing of an unarmed man. His guilt, when forced to face civilization again, leads him to commit suicide.

George Robbinsappears in The Third Prize

George Robbins is a runner who enjoys competitive running. George is a good and kind man who is fun-loving and a little feisty. When he is presented with a problem of morality, George chooses a path many would consider wrong by accepting two prizes for his race. He is considered cute by Margery, and the two seem to get a long well. George does not seem to see any problem with his behaviors in the story, which would make him seem to be uncaring and immoral. However, in the end, he gives his second prize to a disabled couple, showing a true sense of compassion.

Jack Potterappears in The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky

Jack Potter is the Marshall of a frontier town called Yellow Sky. He is a shy man, with a red, lined face from the elements and a concern for his image. Jack knows he has committed a near crime by marrying outside of his city, and without telling anyone, but Jack also knows he is in love with his new wife. Jack is tough but fair and seems to be excited to start his new life with his wife. He is not wealthy, but is proud and seems to enjoy showing his new bride her new surroundings. Jack is brave as he shows when confronted with his enemy Scratchy Wilson and a committed man.

Pop Aplingappears in Open Winter

Pop Apling is an older man, nearly sixty, who has worked ranching most of his life. Apling is nothing if not responsible and shows throughout the story that he takes great pride in his work, and in his performance. Faced several times in the story with obstacles that he could have simply walked away from, Apling chooses to continue pushing forward, never allowing himself to be beat. He is brave, and almost fatherly to his young helper, Beech. Through the story, Apling teaches Beech what it means to be a man and how it feels to be proud of what you do.

Beech Cartwrightappears in Open Winter

Beech Cartwright is a sixteen-year old young man hired to help herd horses for a rancher. He is inexperienced, and believes in the beginning of the story that his job is about money, and that anything outside of his job is not paid for, and therefore is not worth his time. Beech only follows Apling, at first, out of fear of repercussion. However, as the story unfolds, it is clear that Beech has listened to Apling, and has learned a responsibility to others. Beech's refusal to sell out Apling to the ranchers shows the beginnings of his new sense of responsibility. Beech also shows himself to be incredibly logical and resourceful as he figures out where water is, and how to manage the herd. In the end, Beech is rewarded with pride in his work and a sense of well being as he brings in the horses.

Satoris Scopesappears in Barn Burning

Satoris Scopes is a young boy who finds himself at a crossroads in 'Barn Burning.' Torn between a loyalty to his father and a sense of right and wrong, Satoris struggles with himself throughout the story, trying to figure out how to stop his father's arson, and maintain his own identity. Satoris is strong willed and loyal to his family, but also knows his father's actions will continue to disrupt his own, and his family's life. In the end, Satoris chooses to stop his father's actions, knowing that means danger to his father, and knowing he can no longer go home. Satoris realizes he has a path other than to walk in the shadow of his father.

Dexter Greenappears in Winter Dreams

Dexter Green is the son of a local grocer who aims for success in life. He is good at locating opportunity and seems to have an affinity for business. However, his lifelong obsession with a young woman named Judy leads him throughout his life to make bad decisions, in the hopes that her love will someday belong to him. He seems to see Judy as the embodiment of all his hopes and dreams, and when he fails to obtain her, he sees himself as a failure. It is only when he realizes Judy has faded that he is able to grieve for the loss of his inner self.

Harold Krebsappears in Soldier's Home

Harold Krebs is a young man who has returned to his childhood home in Oklahoma following his time in the war. Prior to the war, Harold was attending a college in Kansas and was a pleasant young man. Following his time in the war, however, Harold finds himself alienated from society. His stories of the war fall on deaf ears, as many do not wish to hear the reality of war. As a result, Harold becomes more withdrawn. He is unwilling to waste time finding a girl, since he wishes his life to be free from consequences. Harold clearly has been affected by the war and his life is now a struggle for non-complexity.

Peter Brenchappears in Tree of Knowledge

Peter Brench is a man whose life has been spent harboring a deep secret. Brench is in love with his friend's wife and as a result, he keeps secret his hatred for his friend's artwork. Brench is not a bad person, nor would he think of taking Mrs. Mallow from her husband, but instead he remains a faithful and loyal friend to the family. Brench's secret is not meant to harm, but is instead meant to maintain peace and harmony. Even his efforts to protect the Mallow's son, Lance, show him to be a good and faithful friend. In the end, however, Brench has to admit that his secret was, in part, kept because he wanted to maintain the fantasy that Mrs. Mallow did not know. In doing so, he could pretend that he didn't know the woman loved her husband enough to pretend to like his work.

Mrs. Mooneyappears in Boarding House

Mrs. Mooney is the mother of Polly in 'Boarding House.' As a single mother, Mrs. Mooney seems to plan for her daughter's future in a way that is highly subtle. She takes her from a position as a typist, and puts her in charge of entertaining the men at the boarding house. She stands by and watches as Polly begins an affair with one of the men. It is only when the affair is far enough along that Mrs. Mooney traps the young man, and forces him to marry Polly. While Mrs. Mooney's intentions are good, her actions are questionable. She is a strong woman however, and one that will get her way in the end.

The Thayer's appears in Liberty Bell

The Thayer's are a couple that are determined to make their new guests, the Drake's, welcome. Their attempts, however, become more and more pushy as they try so hard to set the Drake's at ease. Their manners are lacking, and their sense of what makes one comfortable is severely questionable. In the end, their behaviors cause the Drake's endless discomfort, showing that even the best intentions can be bad if their delivery is faulty.

Mabel Pervinappears in Horse Dealer's Daughter

Mabel Pervin is the daughter of a horse dealer who has recently passed away. Mabel cared for her father and brothers for many years when the family fortune was still present, and even after. However, while wealthy, Mabel was able to be safe and confident, knowing that she needed no one to maintain her life. Once the money is gone, however, Mabel becomes despondent and depressed, as she believes her life is over. With nothing left to look forward to and no one left to take care of, Mabel attempts suicide as her only solution. When she is saved by local doctor Jack, she convinces herself temporarily that he is in love with her. She uses Jack's saving of her to bind him to her. As Jack falls in love with her, however, she begins to question her own actions, and her own feelings.

Isabelappears in Marriage A La Mode

Isabel is the wife of William in 'Marriage A La Mode' and is his primary source of agony. Isabel loves her husband, but has found a new love for the whimsical and carefree life of the artist society of England. She does not work nor does she care for her children, but instead spends time and money with a group of friends who simply pass the day lazily, with little ambition or goals. Her husband, William, is the exact opposite of this, with ambition, and a great sense of family and loyalty. When confronted with William's emotions, Isabel shows her true selfish nature as she chooses her friends over her family.

Mr. Warburtonappears in The Outstation

Mr. Warburton is a fifty-year old colonist whose previous life as a socialite has left him a snob. He is now balding, and heavy, but in his day he was a wealthy man who kept company with some of the finest in England. Although often thought a snob, Warburton is a kind enough man, willing to help his fellow man without question. However, when confronted with someone he sees as lower class, Warburton's snobbish behavior begins to deepen to the point of alienation. In the end, his snobbish behavior drives his assistant, Cooper, away to the point of agony and frustration. When he perishes, Warburton does not feel sorrow, showing again his belief that he is better than those of a lower class.

The Adultressappears in Cruel and Barbarous Treatment

The young woman in 'Cruel and Barbarous Treatment' is a woman who lives her life as a play. She uses every opportunity to place herself at center stage, and to reinvent herself to play a new role. As a mistress, she toys with the idea of being found out, and plays the role of concerned wife. As a confessing wife, she plays for sympathy, and to lure her husband in to giving himself, pain and all, to her, so she can experience him in totality. As a pending divorcee with a lover, she seeks acceptance, and uses social engagements to place herself in the center of a love triangle. When she realizes, however, that she does not love her lover, she again reinvents herself as a divorcee. Only concerned with how she appears to others, the adulteress will never find happiness.

Jack Ferrisappears in The Sojourner

Jack Ferris is a man whose life is filled with temporary statuses. Faced with his own age at the death of his father, Jack finds himself reminiscing about his marriage to Elizabeth, a beuatiful charming young woman. When he calls her unexpectedly and is invited to dinner, he sees her happy family, and finds himself lying to her about his own life to appear a more stable, permanent individual. He becomes aware, through viewing Elizabeth's life, that his own is merely passing him by. He himself admits he is a sojourner, or temporary resident, and while he means this to pertain to his life in France, he does realize it applies to his entire existence. When he returns home, Jack finds himself promising the son of his girlfriend that they will spend more time together, showing that Jack does plan to change his ways in the future.

Larryappears in My Oedipus Complex

Larry is a young boy whose love for his mother interferes with his love for his father. Larry is used to being the center of his mother's attention since his father went to war. When he returns, Larry finds himself losing his privileged place in his mother's life, which causes him to despise his father. His father is exasperated as well with Larry, and treats him as a child. While this is normal behavior for a father, Larry has been spoiled by his life alone with mother. It is only when Larry is faced with a new threat, a little brother, that he and his father are able to join sides. No longer the only threat, Larry begins to understand that with the new baby, father and he are in the same boat. The two are able to make amends, and become allies, showing that Larry is beginning to understand the world around him.

Joannaappears in The Nightengales sing

Joanna is a young woman who has led a normal, middle class life. Her existence is well structured and safe, having come from a fairly well to do family who does little outside of their safety zone. When Joanna spends time with older individuals at a ranch house in the country, she learns of a life outside of the one she knows. In this new life, she learns of dangerous jobs, heartache, and love outside of what is considered normal. Once back home, then, Joanna has to face her life in a new way, knowing there is more than what her own family sees day to day and knowing she now will likely want more.

Lauraappears in Flowering Judas

Laura is a twenty-two year old American living in Mexico as an aid to the revolution. A teacher by day and a revolutionary at night, Laura still on occasion goes to church, although is betrays her own belief in the revolution. Laura spends much time fighting off advances from the men around her, including the revolutionary leader, Braggioni. There are other men as well that she must quell. Laura does not know why she stays in Mexico, nor why she continues fighting for the revolution. She is a kind woman, but seems unwilling to do what she needs to do to escape. In the end, it is the death of a revolutionary she has tried to help that appears to cause her to begin questioning her loyalties.

Christian Darlingappears in Eighty Yard Run

Christian Darling is a well-built thirty-five year old man who has spent much of his life looking backwards. Once a star football player, Darling spend the first part of his marriage to college sweetheart Louise taking her for granted and cheating on her. Darling lived through his football, and later, through his job with her father as a successful businessman. When the depression hit, however, and Darling was left with nothing, he became jealous of his wife, and angry at her as she began to succeed without him. Instead of being supportive, Darling was selfish, and still took her and her kindness for granted. It was only when Darling realized she had begun to pull away from him that he attempted to make amends, but it was too late. Now, Darling is left with a job that takes him away from home for most of the moth, and left with the knowledge that his wife is spending her time with other, more educated individuals that could have been him, if he had cared enough to pay attention.

Mayappears in Country Love Story

May is a woman married to a man twenty years her senior. When he becomes ill, May attempt to do what is best for him, but soon learns that she does not know him as well as she believed. When the two move into the country, she soon realizes that her husband's illness is driving him away from her, and causing him to be violent and angry at her. Confused, angry, lonely, and hurt, May invents a lover to spend her time with. When her husband does recover, May is dismayed as she finds she no longer loves him, but can also no longer imagine her lover. May is not a cruel character, but one who simply responds to the world around her in such a way as to cope with her life. Unfortunately, her coping leads to a fantasy that is better than her own reality.

Toryappears in Red Letter Day

Tory is a recently divorced mother of one, Edward. Tory is flirtatious and cares about what others think of her, but thinks little of herself. She sees herself as fragile and broken after the divorce and as a bad mother. She knows she is less than qualified as a mother, and knows that she has little stability to offer her son. When she sees another mother, Hay-Hardy, she therefore imagines her to be all the things Tory herself is not, which is fun, boisterous, confident, loving, and nurturing. Even Tory's son sees that she is dangerous and he feels uncomfortable with her, only because she is so uncomfortable with herself. Tory is not a bad mother, but simply one who suffers too much from low self-esteem and a lack of parental experience.

Elizabethappears in A Spinster's Tale

Elizabeth is a thirteen-year old young girl filled with fear. Having recently dealt with the death of her mother, the young girl is still trying to learn to face the world alone. Her father and brother, both caring and loving individuals, have within them a wild streak that Elizabeth sees, and fears. She transfers these fears to a local drunken man, Mr. Speed. Elizabeth is not truly afraid of Mr. Speed, but is instead afraid of what he symbolizes to her. As Elizabeth deals with her fear, she slowly learns to deal with the world, and to come out of her safety zone to deal with the household as a young woman. Over the course of time, her facing of her fear transfers over into the rest of her life, as she takes on the role of woman of the house. In the end of the story, it is Elizabeth's dealing with Mr. Speed that allows her to truly be a woman symbolically to herself and be free of the young girl fears of her childhood.

The Doctorappears in The Use of Force

The doctor is a caring young man who is tainted by his recent dealings with diphtheria taking the lives of local children. When the doctor then encounters a young girl who refuses to be looked at, his anguish over the lost children boils over and he uses more force than necessary. While he admits the child must be looked at, for her own safety and the safety of others, he also realizes that he enjoys the struggle, as it symbolizes to him the struggle against the disease its self. He feels furious, but he also admits he loves the child for fighting as her combative nature is endearing. When the doctor overpowers her, he realizes his struggle was worthwhile as he can now save the young girl.

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