Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Mrs. Rooney, a woman in her seventies in poor health, weighing more than two hundred pounds. Mrs. Rooney’s trip to meet her husband at the railway station on his birthday is a long, slow journey full of chance meetings with a variety of characters. She represents the human condition, and her dragging feet suggest the difficulty of making one’s way through life. Mrs. Rooney mourns the loss of her child Minnie, and she is philosophical about the brevity of existence in her remarks about the chicken killed on the road. She tries to converse with the various people she meets but ends up estranging them, suggesting modern people’s inability to communicate. Mrs. Rooney is obsessed with sex, and many of her remarks carry sexual innuendo. She is caring and concerned for the health and well-being of those she meets. She announces the source of the play’s title in Psalm 145, which provides the text for the Sunday service: “The Lord upholdeth all that fall and raiseth up all those that be bowed down.” The quotation prompts laughter in Mr. and Mrs. Rooney, showing their skepticism that they, as the “bowed down,” will someday be raised up.
Mr. Rooney, the blind husband of Mrs. Rooney. Always in bad humor, Mr. Rooney is surprised by his wife’s appearance at the train station on his birthday. He is preoccupied with counting, which he sees as one of the few satisfactions in life. When he and his wife are taunted by children on the road, he confesses an urge to kill a child, especially Jerry, the boy who guides him home from the station. His job is mundane and repetitious, and he expresses a desire to leave it. Chronically ill, he represents an urge toward death, unsure of how old he...
(The entire section is 718 words.)
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