The Best American Short Stories of the Century Characters

Katrina Kenison
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The Best American Short Stories of the Century Summary & Study Guide Description

The Best American Short Stories of the Century 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 The Best American Short Stories of the Century by Katrina Kenison.

Tennessee Williams, appears in The Resemblance Between a Violin Case and a Coffin

Tennessee Williams is a young boy in this story. The relationship between him and his sister, Rose, is described in great detail. This is given to explain the emotions that the boy goes through watching his sister begin to mature. Some of the feelings seem almost to be anger or jealousy. In truth the young boy knows that he is watching the end of his close relationship with his closest friend, Rose, and it appears to frighten him more than the young boy can understand.

The story also focuses on the young boy realizing that he is beginning to take notice of people in what could be described as a sexual way. The young boy knows that it is wrong to have these feelings since they are aimed at a young man. While Tennessee is watching the boy, he calls himself a monster but says that there is nothing he can do about it. The story focuses on the what could be viewed as a very pivotal point in Tennessee's life. It is at this point that he looses what he views as his only friend explaining that the other kids frightened him. It is also at this point that Tennessee begins to realize that he is attracted to the same sex.

Bessie Popkin, appears in The Key

Bessie Popkin is an elderly widow who stays in her home believing that she lives in a horrid neighborhood. Much of the beginning of the story deals with the way Bessie views the changes she sees around her since her husband died. Bessie believes that there is no one in the neighborhood she lives in except gang members and thieves. Bessie is older and forgets where she puts things. When she finds them somewhere she doesn't remember putting it she blames people that are breaking into her apartment.

Bessie goes out to the grocery store after taking great strides in order to ensure that no one is able to get into her apartment without her knowing it. When Bessie returns home she breaks her key off in the door. While most people would have asked for help Bessie continues with her accusing behavior stating that her neighbors are responsible. It is also seen that Bessie refuses to say thank you or give common courtesies to those around her because she has convinced herself that they are out to get her.

It isn't until Bessie happens to rest on the steps of a church that Bessie sees the stars and realizes that she has wasted her life in hate. Bessie decides she was wrong about her believes of evil being everywhere. When Bessie returns home she sees her long dead husband who takes her home.

Bessie does explain that she has no children. She seems very harsh and the police believe her to be a joke. In truth Bessie was left alone when her husband died and it appears that this has given her a lot of fear.

Nick Adams, appears in The Killers

Nick Adams is in Henry's when the killers arrive and explain that they are there to kill Ole Anderson. Nick is tied up in the kitchen for a time. Nick is the one that goes to warn Ole Anderson about the men looking for him although Ole says that he isn't going to run any longer. Nick is confused by this and disturbed and ultimately says he thinks he is going to move out of the town.

Sill Lancaster, appears in Christmas Gift

Sill is only ten years old but makes his way to town to find a doctor for his sister who is going to have a baby. Sill seems very polite when he is first introduced into the story and is very respectful to the adults that he speaks to. Later when the doctor begins talking with Sill in a much more relaxed conversation Sill begins to repeat things that he has heard his father say and use foul language and even smokes a cigarette.

Tom Harris, appears in The Hitch-Hikers

Tom Harris happens to be the man that picks up two hitch-hikers. They stop in a town and Tom gets out to talk to someone. One of the hitch-hikers is hit over the head with a bottle by the other hitch-hiker and this covers much of Tom's car in blood. Tom admits to himself that the guitar that one of the hitch-hikers carries is a lot of the reason that he picked the two men up.

Richard Miles, appears in The Resemblance Between a Violin Case and a Coffin

Richard Miles is the young man, the age of 17, that performs a musical duet. It is also this person that the young Tennessee Williams first watches and realizes he is attracted to the same sex. Richard Miles dies a short time after the duet from pneumonia.

Francis Weed, appears in The Country Husband

Francis Weed is married with several children but jeopardizes his marriage after the very young baby-sitter kisses him. Francis doesn't have an affair with the girl but becomes obsessed with her to the point that his wife almost leaves him. Francis makes an appointment with a psychiatrist and confesses his love and after that is able to return to his life and seemingly not think of the girl again.

Connie , appears in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

Connie is a young pretty girl of fifteen who attracts the attention of a much older man. The man, Arnold Friend, tells Connie that they are going to be lovers and forces Connie to go with him explaining that if she doesn't then he will hurt her family. Connie believes that Arnold is close to being in his thirties although he tells her he is only eighteen.

Richard, appears in Gesturing

Richard is married to a woman named Joan but is having an affair with a woman named Ruth. Richard's wife tells him that she is ready for a divorce. After they split up Richard realizes with every gesture that Joan does that she doesn't mean for their relationship to be over and that she still wants to be his wife.

Andrea, appears in Janus

Andrea is a real estate agent and makes sure that a bowl she owns is in each of the houses that she shows. The bowl was a gift to her from the man she was having an affair with. Andrea attributes the success she has in selling houses to the fact that the bowl is in each house.

Zoe Hendricks, appears in You're Ugly, Too

Zoe is a college professor who is told by the doctors that she has a mass in her stomach. After having tests done Zoe goes to visit her sister and finds that she is looking haggard and having stomach pains. Zoe seems unable to find a man to spend time with and even makes up relationships when asked about her opinions about love.

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