Ted I think Jonathan was a pretty interesting character. He grew up with all the things immense affluence could buy, but also understood the BS that went with it. He was spot on with his views on the war in Iraq. His biggest conflict was he was totally in love with Joey but didn't know to express it.
Barbara Franzen draws characters who are trying to be good, but are thwarted by narcissism - like so many people we actually know in real life. It's a challenge to "like" them - especially if we are as honest and perceptive as he is. He loves them, though; and challenges us to love them as well. He writes with humor and tenderness and gets down some of tthe he best sentences in the business. Works for me. If you are looking for uncomplicated good people who are easy to admire, Franzen is not the writer for you.
Campbell I think Joey, by the end, was a good person who I'd like to meet. He started off such an unlikable character and then finally seemed to get his act together and figure out what it was he actually wanted from life.
Jeanne Mixon I didn't like any of them, but I have never read a Franzen character I could stand. He has such a gloomy view of mankind it exceeds my own and that's saying a lot. I'm not a real cheerful person, but I think I am downright sunny in comparison.
Sheila Martinez that's funny that you ask...I was just thinking today that not one of the characters in the book is really likable.
Elaine M. Walter is the only character in the book with depth, and a passion for something greater than himself (a whole species). I would have loved to have been one of his volunteers. Though he hates the pope and is anti-religion, he is deeply spiritual -- with eyes that see the sacred in creation -- and compassion that confounds the cat-hater who wouldn't hurt a cat. He suffers from his own goodness in many ways: in his desire to live ethically (almost impossible to attain in a super-consumer world); in his relationships that return only unrequited love, betrayal, ignorance, selfishness, and loss; in his relentless integrity. He does bring out the better angels in people in his willingness to endure and forgive. I love this guy. We need more like him in the real world.
Jonathan Combs I liked the dynamic between Walter and Richard, but you'd probably want to meet both of them at the same time, not as individuals. I thought Walter's redeeming value was his love for Lalitha, who was the certainly the most self-aware and the force for pure good that others wanted to be.
Israel Carlock I think it is Richard and Joey. From the first I remember it's reply "I'd actually be fine with overthrowing the whole system, you can go ahead and sign me up for that". This is a rebel in him, but to be precise it the classic angry man that arrived to a discussion without feeling like doing it and being forced to. From the latter, a feces driven enlightment experienced by this guy, once it takes out the gold out of the excrement, as if it were his own person allegory, things start going better for him, all the stupidity of his futile life start vanishing slowly and gradually he gets himself together as a man.