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Written by Claire Cornwall
Lee is the main character in the novel but ironically is a peripheral person in the day to day life of the school. Lee is the narrator of the book and because of this everything we know about the other characters is based on her opinion of them. Lee is an outsider, a loner, not because she dislikes the company of other people but because she is socially awkward and perpetually terrified of betraying herself and her background. Lee is stuck between two worlds, school and home, and does not feel like she belongs in either of them. The majority of her social anxiety is not based on what other people think of her but on what she thinks of herself; Lee views herself as an outsider and works hard to maintain this identity even though there are many ways in which she could fit in with just a little effort. Although she feels like her classmates are judging her, she actually judges them rather harshly and sometimes seems contemptuous of their social interactions and eagerness to do things the way they need to be done.
Lee is sometimes more of a tour guide than a narrator, taking the reader on a journey through the pivotal events in her life at Ault. She is also a voyeur in her own life as it is a thirty year old Lee who tells us the story of her teenage self.
Lee is exceptionally intense and considers herself to be wierd, far more than others consider her to be. She fears the judgement of others but is excessively judgemental of herself. She is also very judgemental of her classmates who try to fit in with the popular crowd, almost considering such attempts beneath her. Lee is not always a likeable character and is often frustrating because she often seems to waste the amazing opportunities afforded to her at Ault. Once a star student in her public school, she is now struggling at the bottom of the class but does not seem motivated or inclined to work harder. Lee is basically a family oriented Midwesterner unable to understand how to fit in to an unfamiliar environment. Despite the fact she is the main character in the novel had we been students at Ault at the same time as Lee it's possible we would hardly have noticed her at all.
Martha Porter is Lee's best friend and according to Lee exactly the kind of student who is overlooked at Ault. She is thoughtful, generous and reliable, valuing her friendship with Lee more than her position of Senior Prefect, and trying to raise Lee's confidence levels but suggesting her as one of the students to be interviewed for the New York Times article about Ault. She is very honest and direct, sometimes offending Lee, but had she known her honesty would be upsetting she would have kept her opinions to herself. Martha is a hard worker, trustworthy and dependable, but in some ways betrays Lee by being more like the traditional Ault student than the outsider Lee originally believed her to be. Martha goes on to Harvard and the expected route from Ault after graduation.
Sin Jun Kim
Sin Jun is Korean and is the intriguing daughter of a devoted and highly successful Father. Sin Jun is intelligent but has a limited grasp of certain sayings or words which makes it hard for her to break into a particular clique or group of friends. Because of this she is largely under-estimated by her peers, becoming exponentially more interesting to them after her suicide attempt. This public cry for help is a great paradox to her level headed demeanor and until her suicide attempt she had not shown any depth of emotion other than cheerfulness at all. Her turmoil is due in part to the romantic relationship she is having with her room mate Clara O'Halloran, and her guilt at wanting to end the relationship knowing that Clara was completely dependent on her. Sin Jun is one of the few classmates Lee keeps in touch with as an adult.
Dede is a typical Ault girl and desperately excited to be friends with Aspeth Montgomery, the perceived most popular girl in the class. Dede is Aspeth's acolyte and follows her in word and action. Dede is extremely concerned to fit into the blueprint of what an Ault student should be like and is also anxious to make sure that Lee does too, many times saving her from humiliation by changing the subject or diverting their classmates' attention. Dede takes herself very seriously but after graduation finds the ability to laugh at herself and consequently she and Lee develop a true friendship as adults. Dede has a crush on Cross Sugerman but is so convinced of her own social standing that it does not occur to her that Lee, whom she believes to be much lower on the social ladder than she is, would like him too.
Cross is extremely popular, academically gifted, a star basketball player and enthusiastic actor, participating in school plays and many other activities with talent and flair. Although he seems a typical "jock" he is surprisingly introspective, liking time alone and getting to know Lee's personality far more than she gives him credit for. Cross is a heartbreaker with a legion of girls falling in love with him, and although he is aware of this does not seem keen to have a serious girlfriend. He is voted Senior Prefect in a landslide victory and his easy-going demeanor makes him very popular. Cross conforms to Ailt's rules and expectations but remains his own person.
Little is attending Ault on a basketball scholarship. She is one of twins, her sister Big remaining at home and attending public school. Little has a chip on her shoulder and is simultaneously contemptuous and resentful of her wealthy classmates. When she steals money from the other girls in the dormitory she justifies her actions by saying they don't need the money. She seems angry at heart and has already decided she dislikes her fellow Ault students before trying to get to know them.
Gates is Senior Prefect during Lee's Freshman year, and is Ault's first female senior prefect. She is popular and confident yet approachable and kind, her kindness triggering an obsession in Lee who seeks our opportunities to see her in the hallways or between classes. Gates is a high achiever, like Lee, she hails from the Midwest but unlike Lee worked hard to fit into the fabric of the school, illustrating that it is Lee's character not her geographical background that prevents her from doing the same.
Conchita is the daughter of a wealthy Texan oilman and a highly over protective Mother who telephones her daily on the private telephone line installed in her single dorm room. Conchita does well academically but is hopelessly un-athletic, not even knowing how to ride a bicycle until taught by Lee. Conchita uses fashion to draw attention to herself and to put the stamp of confidence on her outsider status. She is outgoing and warm but ultimately quick to anger and very vengeful, killing off Lee during the game Assassin to avenge Lee stealing her best friend.
Tullis is cool and interesting, a bad boy type visually but in actuality approachable and easy going. He is a gifted guitar player and singer who provides Lee the gateway to school notoriety when he asks her to cut his hair. Popular and genial his recommendation of her skills carries a great deal of weight with his classmates.
Dave is a kitchen porter at Ault who is down to earth and approachable, reminding Lee of her family. He is considerate and is the first person ever to ask Lee out on a date, although she is ultimately reluctant to be seen to be associating with him because in reality their social status is too similar.
Aspeth is the archetypal Ault student who is popular and mean in equal measure. She is confident and happy in herself. Her long blonde hair is her trademark and even after graduation Lee associates the smell of her shampoo with her days at Ault.
Darden is a star basketball player also attending Ault on a scholarship, but unlike Lee is able to function outstandingly in this privileged environment. He is popular with many friends and a good sense of humor. Lee finds him easier to talk to than their classmates and it is Darden who gallantly leads Lee away from the angry crowd of students after the debacle of her New York Times interview. Darden is intuitive and seems to know what behavior is expected if him, always able to deliver what is required.
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