A Map of the World
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"A Map of the World" Characters Analysis

By Jane Hamilton

fiction | 400 pages | Published in NaN

One unremarkable June morning, Alice Goodwin is, as usual, trying to keep in check both her temper and her tendency to blame herself for her family's shortcomings. When the Goodwins took over the last dairy farm in the small Midwestern town of Prairie Center, they envisioned their home a self-made paradise. But these days, as Alice is all too aware, her elder daughter Emma is prone to inexplicable fits of rage, her husband Howard distrusts her maternal competence, and Prairie Center's tight-knit suburban community shows no signs of warming to "those hippies who think they can run a farm." A loner by nature, Alice is torn between a yearning for solitude coupled with a deep need to be at the center of a perfect family. On this particular day, Emma has started the morning with a violent tantrum, her little sister Claire is eating pennies, and it is Alice's turn to watch her neighbor's two small girls as well as her own. She absentmindedly steals a minute alone that quickly becomes ten: time enough for a devastating accident to occur. Her neighbor's daughter Lizzy drowns in the farm's pond, and Alice - whose own volatility and unmasked directness keep her on the outskirts of acceptance - becomes the perfect scapegoat. At the same time, a seemingly trivial incident from Alice's past resurfaces and takes on gigantic proportions, leading the Goodwins far from Lizzy's death into a maze of guilt and doubt culminating in a harrowing court trial and the family's shattering downfall.

ISBN_13:9780385720106

Estimated read time: 10 min read

List of Characters

NameRole
Alice GoodwinProtagonist
Howard GoodwinAlice's husband
Theresa CollinsAlice's best friend
Lizzy CollinsTheresa's daughter
Nellie CollinsTheresa's daughter
Claire CollinsTheresa's daughter
Edith StampNeighboring farm owner
Dan StampEdith's husband
Emma MurphyAlice's neighbor
Robbie MackessyAlice's attorney
Theresa's ParentsTheresa's parents
Howard's ParentsHoward's parents

Role Identification

Alice Goodwin - Protagonist

Alice Goodwin is the main character and protagonist of the novel. The story revolves around her struggles and challenges as a wife, mother, and member of a small rural community.

Howard Goodwin - Alice's Husband

Howard is Alice's husband and a supportive partner. He is a farmer and works hard to provide for his family. Howard plays a significant role in Alice's character development and the challenges they face together.

Theresa Collins - Alice's Best Friend

Theresa is Alice's best friend and a pillar of support throughout the novel. She is a single mother and has a close relationship with Alice. Theresa's presence and friendship provide solace and comfort to Alice during difficult times.

Lizzy Collins, Nellie Collins, and Claire Collins - Theresa's Daughters

Lizzy, Nellie, and Claire are Theresa's daughters. They play minor roles in the story but contribute to the development of Alice's character through their interactions with her.

Edith Stamp - Neighboring Farm Owner

Edith Stamp is a neighboring farm owner and a complex character in the novel. She has a strained relationship with Alice and becomes a source of conflict and tension in the story.

Dan Stamp - Edith's Husband

Dan is Edith Stamp's husband and a farmer. He is a minor character but plays a role in the overall dynamics of the story.

Emma Murphy - Alice's Neighbor

Emma Murphy is Alice's neighbor and provides support and friendship to Alice during challenging times.

Robbie Mackessy - Alice's Attorney

Robbie Mackessy is Alice's attorney and plays a crucial role in the legal aspects of the story.

Theresa's Parents and Howard's Parents

Theresa's parents and Howard's parents are minor characters but contribute to the understanding of their respective families' backgrounds.

Character Descriptions

Alice Goodwin

Alice Goodwin is a compassionate, dedicated, and introspective woman in her thirties. She is a devoted mother to her two daughters and a supportive wife to Howard. Alice is portrayed as a thoughtful and responsible individual who often questions her own worth and decisions.

Howard Goodwin

Howard Goodwin is a hardworking farmer in his thirties. He is depicted as a kind-hearted and loving husband and father. Howard is committed to his family and takes pride in his work on the farm.

Theresa Collins

Theresa Collins is a single mother in her thirties. She is portrayed as strong-willed, loyal, and fiercely protective of her daughters. Theresa's friendship with Alice is a source of strength and stability for both women.

Lizzy Collins, Nellie Collins, and Claire Collins

Lizzy, Nellie, and Claire Collins are Theresa's daughters. Lizzy, the eldest, is responsible and caring. Nellie is imaginative and sensitive, while Claire is the youngest and often seeks attention.

Edith Stamp

Edith Stamp is an elderly woman who owns a neighboring farm. She is portrayed as bitter, judgmental, and suspicious of Alice and her family. Edith's antagonistic behavior adds tension to the story.

Dan Stamp

Dan Stamp is Edith's husband and a farmer. He is a reserved and quiet character who often tries to mediate conflicts between Alice and Edith.

Emma Murphy

Emma Murphy is a kind and compassionate neighbor who offers support and friendship to Alice during her difficult times.

Robbie Mackessy

Robbie Mackessy is Alice's attorney. He is determined, resourceful, and provides legal support to Alice during a pivotal time in her life.

Theresa's Parents and Howard's Parents

Theresa's parents and Howard's parents are mentioned briefly in the story, providing some insight into their respective family backgrounds.

Character Traits

Alice Goodwin

  • Compassionate
  • Dedicated
  • Introspective
  • Thoughtful
  • Responsible

Howard Goodwin

  • Hardworking
  • Kind-hearted
  • Loving
  • Committed
  • Proud

Theresa Collins

  • Strong-willed
  • Loyal
  • Protective
  • Resilient
  • Supportive

Lizzy Collins, Nellie Collins, and Claire Collins

  • Lizzy: Responsible and caring
  • Nellie: Imaginative and sensitive
  • Claire: Seeking attention as the youngest

Edith Stamp

  • Bitter
  • Judgmental
  • Suspicious
  • Antagonistic

Dan Stamp

  • Reserved
  • Quiet
  • Mediator

Emma Murphy

  • Kind
  • Compassionate
  • Supportive
  • Friendly

Robbie Mackessy

  • Determined
  • Resourceful
  • Supportive
  • Professional

Theresa's Parents and Howard's Parents

  • Background characters, little information provided

Character Background

Alice Goodwin

Alice Goodwin grew up in a small rural community and has always had a strong connection to nature and the land. She met Howard in college, and they eventually settled in the same community where Alice grew up. Alice's background and upbringing shape her values, sense of responsibility, and commitment to her family.

Howard Goodwin

Howard Goodwin also grew up in the same small community as Alice. He comes from a farming family and has always had a deep love for the land. Howard's background as a farmer influences his work ethic, dedication to his family, and his role as a provider.

Theresa Collins

Theresa Collins is a single mother who moved to the community with her daughters. She has faced her share of challenges and hardships, which have contributed to her resilience and determination to create a better life for her family.

Lizzy Collins, Nellie Collins, and Claire Collins

Lizzy, Nellie, and Claire Collins have grown up in a single-parent household. Their background has shaped their individual personalities and the dynamics within their family.

Edith Stamp

Edith Stamp has lived in the community for many years and owns a neighboring farm. She has a reputation for being difficult and judgmental, which is likely influenced by her personal history and life experiences.

Dan Stamp

Dan Stamp is married to Edith and works as a farmer. He is a quieter character, and not much information is provided about his background.

Emma Murphy

Emma Murphy is an older neighbor who has lived in the community for a long time. She is known for her kindness and willingness to help others.

Robbie Mackessy

Robbie Mackessy is a professional attorney who has experience dealing with legal matters in the community. His background and expertise shape his role in the story.

Theresa's Parents and Howard's Parents

Little information is provided about Theresa's parents and Howard's parents, but their presence suggests a sense of family and background support.

Character Arcs

Alice Goodwin

Alice Goodwin's character arc is centered around her journey from self-doubt and guilt to self-acceptance and forgiveness. She faces a series of challenges, including a tragic accident and a subsequent trial, which force her to confront her own flaws and question her worth. Throughout the novel, Alice undergoes a transformation, learning to forgive herself and embrace her strength as a woman, mother, and member of her community.

Howard Goodwin

Howard Goodwin's character arc is intertwined with Alice's. He initially struggles to understand and support Alice during her challenging times. However, as the story progresses, Howard learns to communicate more effectively with Alice and becomes a more empathetic and understanding partner.

Theresa Collins

Theresa Collins' character arc revolves around her friendship with Alice and her growth as a single mother. She remains a steadfast friend to Alice, supporting her through thick and thin. Theresa's journey is one of strength and resilience as she navigates the complexities of single parenthood and helps Alice find her own strength.

Lizzy Collins, Nellie Collins, and Claire Collins

As minor characters, Lizzy, Nellie, and Claire Collins do not undergo significant character arcs. However, their interactions with Alice and their experiences as part of a single-parent household contribute to the overall themes of the novel.

Edith Stamp

Edith Stamp's character arc is one of bitterness and suspicion. Her strained relationship with Alice continues to deteriorate throughout the novel, leading to a climactic confrontation. Edith's arc serves as a contrast to Alice's journey of self-acceptance and forgiveness.

Dan Stamp

Dan Stamp's character arc is not as pronounced as others in the novel, but he serves as a mediator and attempts to ease the tension between Alice and Edith.

Emma Murphy

Emma Murphy's character arc is one of unwavering support and kindness. She remains a constant presence in Alice's life, offering comfort and friendship during difficult times.

Robbie Mackessy

Robbie Mackessy's character arc is focused on his role as Alice's attorney. He provides legal guidance and support to Alice throughout her trial, ultimately helping her find justice and closure.

Theresa's Parents and Howard's Parents

As minor characters, Theresa's parents and Howard's parents do not experience significant character arcs. They provide background support and context for their respective families.

Relationships

Alice and Howard

Alice and Howard have a strong and loving relationship. They support each other through the challenges they face and grow closer as they navigate the aftermath of the accident.

Alice and Theresa

Alice and Theresa share a deep bond of friendship. Theresa provides unwavering support to Alice, offering her a safe space to express her fears and doubts.

Alice and Edith

Alice and Edith have a strained relationship. Edith's suspicion and judgment create tension between them, leading to a climactic confrontation.

Alice and Emma

Alice and Emma have a supportive and friendly relationship. Emma provides comfort and understanding to Alice during her difficult times.

Alice and Robbie

Alice and Robbie have a professional relationship as attorney and client. Robbie plays a critical role in Alice's legal battle, providing guidance and support.

Alice and Lizzy, Nellie, and Claire

Alice interacts with Theresa's daughters in various ways. She offers them support and guidance when needed, and they contribute to the overall dynamics of the story.

Alice and Theresa's Parents, Howard's Parents

Although their roles are minor, Alice's interactions with Theresa's parents and Howard's parents provide insights into the background support for their respective families.