Seymour Glass fought in World War II and is suffering from "battle fatigue" (post-traumatic stress disorder). Leaving his wife behind in their Florida hotel room, he befriends a girl named Sybil Carpenter on the beach, helping her to overcome her fear of big waves and admonishing her to be kind. His tenderness with Sybil is a stark contrast with his paranoid accusation that a woman on the hotel elevator is "looking at his feet." At the end of the story, he performs another insensitive act, killing himself while his wife sleeps on the twin bed beside his in the hotel room.
The narrative of "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut" strongly implies Eloise Wengler married her husband, Lew Wengler, after becoming pregnant with her daughter, Ramona, during a loveless college tryst. She is bitter and unhappy, hiding behind a facade of sarcasm and bravado. Over drinks with her old college roommate, Mary Jane, she reveals the boy she truly loved, Walt, died when a stove he and another soldier were packing up exploded. Recounting the senselessness of the event angers her so much she refuses to help her maid and is abusive toward Ramona.
Feeling used by her tennis partner, Selena, Ginnie Maddox insists on getting the money she claims Selena owes her back at once, causing an unpleasant scene between the girls. While Selena goes to ask her mother for the money, Ginnie has a conversation with Selena's older brother, Franklin, a jaded nonconformist many times rejected by Ginnie's older sister, who is popular. Ginnie, too tall for her age and awkward, identifies with Franklin's outsider status. When Selena returns with the money, Ginnie feigns interest in being friends with Selena, presumably so she can spend more time with Franklin.
The Chief is an NYU law student hired by the Comanches' parents to watch their children after school and on holidays. He entertains them by narrating the serial story about a character he has invented, named the Laughing Man. Powerful, despite his physical deformity, the Laughing Man may be an alter ego for the Chief, who is short and unattractive. The Chief briefly dates a beautiful Wellesley College coed named Mary Hudson, and when she breaks off the relationship, he kills the Laughing Man, perhaps as a way of acknowledging the limits of his social power.
Staff Sergeant X
The first-person Nameless Narrator of "For Esmé—With Love and Squalor" recounts the story of his connection with Esmé in three parts: the present-day invitation to Esmé's wedding; the initial meeting between the two in Britain, right before D-day; and the night he finally received a promised letter from Esmé just after the German Army surrendered. In each section, the Nameless Narrator is slightly different. The self-assured society writer who begins the story is not the same as the introverted and self-conscious soldier who meets Esmé at the café, nor is he the same as mentally broken Staff Sergeant X who opens Esmé's long-lost parcel. The progression shows a movement from innocence to experience, as well as the way human connection can mend the human psyche.
Jean de Daumier-Smith
Jean de Daumier-Smith is the pretentious pseudonym the narrator of "De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period" gives himself in order to impress the owners of a correspondence art school in Montreal, where he briefly works. A 19-year-old, raised in Paris by his stepfather and mother, he returns to Manhattan in a depressed and disaffected state of mind after his mother's death. The narrator uses pretense to mask his grief, and feigns misanthropy to hide his fear and loneliness. His long letters further serve to distance him from other people. At the end of the story, he realizes alienation is, contradictorily, an enduring human bond.
Teddy is a dispassionate, brilliant 10-year-old with materialistic, distractible parents and a bossy younger sister. His philosophic view is heavily influenced by the Vedantic theory of reincarnation, which views the body as simply a vessel through which spirits at various stages of enlightenment move. He meditates regularly and has gained insight into when people will leave their bodies—meaning, when they will die. He explains to a professor he meets on board the ship that he might die today if the circumstances align correctly. At the end of the story, this prophecy appears to come true.