The Seven Storey Mountain Characters

This Study Guide consists of approximately 29 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Seven Storey Mountain.
This section contains 933 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)

Thomas Merton

Merton is a contemplative at heart and never rests until he finds a life of quiet labor and contemplation with the Trappists.

He is intelligent and well-read. In fact, reading is an important part of his life. Many of his decisions and opinions on life are shaped by the authors he reads, many of whom were contemporary philosophers.

He knows at least two living languages and some Latin. He has lived in three countries. He seems to make friends and influence people easily. He appreciates beauty and has an eye for art and color and seasons and space. He appreciates simplicity in others and purity of heart.

He is single and never marries, choosing instead, eventually, to make his vows to a celibate lifestyle. Though not an introvert, he has an active inward life, constantly thinking, mulling over problems and possibilities and patterns. He enjoys the serene over the electric, though this often puts him at odds with his surroundings in places like New York.

Though he doesn't admit as much, he can be very indecisive. In fact, the climax of the book centers on his wavering decision to join a monastic order. He enjoys friends and mentions them often. It seems to be important to him to experience life with others and he remembers most fondly the episodes where others are present.

Owen Merton

Though his son describes him only in the most complimentary terms, Owen Merton leaves much of his childrearing responsibility to others. He leaves his two sons continents away for months at a time.

However, to hear his son tell it, Owen is the most noble and generous man one could hope to know, one of "exceptional intellectual honesty and sincerity and purity and understanding. In reflecting on his death, Merton wrote, "Souls are like athletes, that need opponents worthy of them, they are to be tried and extended and pushed to the full use of their powers, and rewarded according to their capacity. And my father was in a fight with this tumor, and none of us understood the battle. We thought he was done for, but it was making him great". Merton's father is seen throughout the book as honest, simple, noble, and pure of heart.

Owen Merton is an artist. He paints landscapes and does it well enough to support two sons and considerable world travel (though his financial situation may have been helped by his father, a successful American businessman.)

Owen Merton's wife dies of stomach cancer when their children (two boys) are young. The reader is never given insight as to in what manner or how deeply this affects Owen. He leaves both his boys in the care of others and seems to disappear to another continent and a developing career until he can recover from his grief and poverty enough to return and reclaim at least his elder son.

Owen Merton also dies of cancer, but faces it with courage and serenity. His death, almost as much as his life, is peaceful and inspiring to his son Thomas.

John Paul Merton

The author writes that his most vivid memories of his brother "all fill me with poignant compunction at the thought of my own pride and hard-heartedness, and his natural humility and love".

John Paul is often left at home—that is, with Pop and Bonnemaman—while the older brother gets to accompany Father. He is rejected by his older brother and his friends. He is largely left out of Thomas's life. Certainly an autobiography of John Paul Merton would bear little resemblance to his brother's. John Paul ends the book on a sad note as well when he gives his life in the war. Throughout, John Paul associates with sadness and poignancy.

Pop and Bonnemaman

Merton's grandparents have a polarized relationship. Pop is boisterous and energetic. His wife is docile and often tired or even annoyed at her husband's behavior. They are, however, loving and faithful to Merton and the rest of their family.

Mark Van Doren

The professor Merton most extols and the one who, in the end, forces Merton's hand to reapply himself to his vocation, Van Doren is seen as a friend and also a mentor. He is wise, though possibly not as spiritual or religious as Merton. He is the best teacher Merton knows.

Aunt Maude and Uncle Ben

A retired headmaster, Uncle Ben occupies little important space in the story, but it is Aunt Maude who first awakens Merton's desire and talent for writing. Beyond his father, she seems to be the first person to take him seriously. He calls her his "little Victorian angel".

Bill Walsh

Walsh has a minor role, that of the man who initially guides Merton to the Franciscan order. His presence in the story lasts for only one scene but it is a scene to which Merton looks forward for years.

Bob Lax and Ed Rice

The most-often mentioned friends in the book and the two with whom Merton makes his hermitage to the cottage in Olean. The three grow beards and write novels together. Merton sees Lax as a fellow contemplative by nature.

Seymour Freedgood and Bob Gerty

Other friends mentioned slightly less often. Sy Freedgood seems a bit of a partier in the later chapters when Merton is losing his interest in partying.

Father Edmund

The priest at the monastery of St. Francis of Assisi in New York who baptizes Merton and serves him his first communion, he is also the one who, as kindly as possible, closes the door on Merton's dreams of priesthood.

This section contains 933 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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