The Cast of Characters in “Manhattan Morning”
Dan Morrison, born and raised in a middle-class household in South Bend, Indiana, is in his early 30s when the story takes place. An only child, his mother died of breast cancer while he was in college. Thanks to a scholarship, he was able to attend Northwestern University where he majored in international relations with a focus on the Far East. Shortly after his mother died, his father met wealthier woman from Texas, moved in with her and they soon married. Unable to get along with his step-mother and distressed by the loss of his home, Dan became estranged from his father.
Uncertain what to do next and loath to ask his father to help pay for more education, Dan fled to Japan after graduation with the intent of polishing up his Japanese while thinking things over. He supported himself by teaching English to Japanese students. While in Tokyo, Dan met a foreign journalist who taught him how to properly write a news story, gave him some free-lance work and eventually helped him get a job with Hearst in Washington, D.C. There he met a young summer intern named Helen, fell in love and followed her back to New York City where she worked in the fashion industry. Unable to find his feet in NY journalism, Dan switched to advertising and marketing, working his way up from an entry-level job editing ad copy.
His marriage, devoid of children, ended after about five years when Helen suddenly asked for a divorce. Shaken and perplexed, Dan, now quite good at his new occupation, followed one of his bosses to an emerging firm in Philadelphia. While there, he met his current wife, Marcy, through an Internet dating service.
When “Manhattan Morning” takes place, Dan is briefly back in New York with his wife and mother-in-law. He is scheduled to leave for California the next day at the request of his mother’s older brother, who lives in Santa Barbara, and, with nothing better to do, decides to walk to Grand Central Terminal to buy a ticket for the bus to Kennedy Airport.
Marcy, Dan’s wife, is about six years younger than her husband. Also an only child, she grew up in Ohio and followed her mother to Barnard College in Manhattan where she majored in French Literature. Uncertain what to do with the degree, or her life in general for that matter, Marcy returned to home to live with her mother. Her father, an architect, had died in the interim.
When Marcy appeared unlikely to soon marry, her mother encouraged her to take courses that would enable her to get a teaching job. Frustrated with her social life, Marcy eventually turned to the Internet and came across Dan. That led to marriage and a move to Philadelphia where she got a job she likes teaching very young children at a private school.
Dan and Marcy both want to have a family and the time to start could be drawing near.
At the time the story takes place, Marcy is in New York with her mother to attend an alumni event at Barnard.
Reginald Saddleford, an Episcopalian minister, is an important character who doesn't appear in person. Born in South Africa to an Indian father and a mixed-race mother and thus a "colored," his last name was changed at some point. Saddleford got a scholarship to study in England where he had a religious experience, switched to theology and was ordained in the Anglican Church. His marriage to Lydia, an English girl, was facilitated by the tragedy of Partition. Unable to overcome racial prejudice in Britain, the Saddlefords relocated to America where the minister was accepted into the Episcopalian church and posted to Marcy's home town -- in fact, to the church built by her father.
Saddleford's importance in preserving Marcy's father's church and in helping to stabilize the community around it, and beyond, are important counterpoints to certain personal shortcomings.
Gloria, Marcy’s mother, is a formidable woman. A free spirit with an artistic temperament, Gloria is bent on enjoying life after bringing up her child, supporting the priorities of her architect husband – “he so detested the perfectly straight line” – and devotedly caring for him as his health slipped away and her social life vanished.
Now flamboyant in her choice of attire, in her unapologetic devotion to an active love life, and in the manner in which she expresses herself, Gloria comes across as a liberated bohemian, albeit of a certain age. But when problems arise, she knows what to do and how to make sure everyone else follows her lead -- and when her late husband's legacy is at stake, her attitude is take no prisoners.
Marcy loves her mother because despite their obvious differences, the two of them have always had a warm and understanding relationship, in contrast to the complaints many of her college classmates expressed about their mothers. Grateful to her mother for taking good care of her father, Marcy believes Gloria now richly deserves a life of her own while she is still able to enjoy one.
Dan admires his mother-in-law even while finding her somewhat challenging.
Helen, Dan’s former wife, doesn’t appear in person in “Manhattan Morning,” but Dan can’t help thinking about her during his walk along 5th Avenue, past any number of high-end purveyors of the latest fashions. Although he has successfully put her behind him in all practical respects, she remains an important influence in terms of how he thinks about certain things.
Marcy doesn’t feel threatened by Helen or by the impact that she had on Dan. She believes the past is the past and life moves on.
Sheryl, a woman with whom Dan has an unexpected encounter while eating lunch at New York's Grand Central Terminal, lives a hectic life as a working mother of three very young children. But her classy appearance makes an impression on Dan as does the story she tells him and the values she expresses.