Buddy is one of Esther's main antagonists. As the primary love interest in her life, Buddy is a lightning rod for all of Esther's anxieties about men and sexuality. While in the beginning of their relationship, Esther is willing to accept Buddy's authority on issues ranging from sex to literature, he soon repulses her with his hypocritical attitude toward sex and his generally disparaging attitude toward her literary aspirations.
Mrs. Greenwood is Esther's other primary antagonist. Esther has hostile feelings toward her mother because her mother is everything she doesn't want to become. Mrs. Greenwood accepts women's subservience to men, in the workplace and in the home, and Esther chafes under her mother's conventionalism. Mrs. Greenwood is also unsympathetic to Esther's mental illness, believing it to be a moral failing, as if Esther voluntarily and willfully decided to be depressed in order to spite her mother.