The main character of the story, Latimer is plagued by his unnatural sight into the minds of others. Despite this ability he is unable to foster positive human connections, even though it was what he yearned for at the beginning. Latimer was abanded by his mother, shipped away by his father, alienated by his brother, and tormented by his lover (Bertha). Click here to see some of Latimer's philosophies expanded upon.
"I was hungry for human deeds and human emotions" (6).
"I was too completely swayed by the sense that I was in the grasp of unknown forces, to believe in my power of self-release. Towards my own destiny I had become entirely passive; for my one ardent desire had spent itself, and impulse no longer predominated over knowledge" (33).
[DQ] Latimer talks about how he was able to see all around Bertha’s soul, why didn’t he know about her murderous plots?
An enchanting young woman who is first introduced as the adopted niece of Mrs. Filmore who is Latimer's father's neighbor. She is briefly betrothed to Alfred but after his death marries Latimer instead. Latimer is obsessed with Bertha who for quite some time is the only individual who's mind he cannot easily read. She soon reveals to Latimer her apathy and hatred.
"[Her] features were sharp, the pale grey eyes at once acute, restless, and sarcastic. They were fixed on me in half-smiling curiosity, and I felt a painful sensation as if a sharp wind were cutting me. The pale-green dress, and the green leaves that seemed to form a border about her pale blond hair, made me think of a Water-Nixie" (11).
[DQ] Though he wasn’t able to fully infiltrate Bertha’s mind yet, Latimer got the notion early on that Bertha didn’t love his brother and that she had ulterior motives or hidden thoughts towards Alfred and their relationship. Do you think that Bertha had any malicious plans towards Alfred/his family once they were to be married?
Latimer’s brother, Alfred, is the son of their father’s first marriage to Alfred’s mother. Alfred who is twenty-six educated at Eton and Oxford and is described as being quite the opposite of Latimer. Latimer despises his brother and is jealous of his romantic connection to Bertha. Alfred dies before he marries Bertha however leaving Latimer free to chase her affections.
“now a handsome self-confident man- a thorough contrast to [me]. [He] came before me as a prefect stranger. He had the superficial kindness of a good-humored, self-satisfied nature, that fears no rivalry, and has encountered no contrarieties” (14).
Latimer’s father is forty-five years old and has outlived two wives, the first was with Alfred’s mother, the second with Latimer’s mother. Latimer was always timid in his presences, more due to Latimer’s “sensitive nature.” Latimer’s father hoped that Alfred would take over the business after he was gone, which truly disappoints him when Alfred dies. His father soon warms up to Latimer after Alfred died, even excepting Latimer’s proposal to his brother’s widow, Bertha.
"He was a firm, unbending, intensely orderly man, in root and stem a banker, but with a flourishing graft of the active landholder, aspiring to country influence: one of these people who are always like themselves from day to day, who are uninfluenced by the weather, and neither know melancholy nor high spirits" (5).
[DQ] How has Latimer’s father affected who Latimer has become? Was Latimer born with a disinclination towards the rational sciences or did his childhood influence the type of person he developed into? How might the inclusion of phrenology into the plot suggest he was born with his irrationality?
A childhood friend of Latimer's, Charles is arguably the only character with which Latimer is able to foster a close relationship. The two are described as being complete opposites. Latimer implies that he befriended Charles out of pity due to his low social status and poor looks. Later in the plot, we are reintroduced to Charles who is now a renowned doctor. With Latimer's help he brings the maid, Mrs. Archer, back to life for a few moments using a blood transfusion.
"The bond was not an intellectual one; it came from a source that can happily blend the stupid with the brilliant, the dreamy with the practical: it came from community of feeling" (8).
The maid that Bertha hires after her marriage to Latimer. It is she who receives the blood transfusion at the end of the story.
A neighbor of Latimer's father who first introduces her adoptive niece, Bertha, to Latimer's family.
A man hired by Latimer's father to do phrenological testing on Latimer to see how best to instruct and educate the young man. Although a minor character he could be responsible for the path Latimer's life takes.