Foma Gordeyev (FOH-muh gohr-DEH-yehf), the son of a tough trader who owns barges and tugs and speculates on the exchange. Foma, wishing to know the meaning of life, has trouble accepting capitalistic views; he denounces local moneyed dignitaries by shouting reminders of their unsavory pasts for all to hear at a ship launching. He is hustled off to an insane asylum. Released, he is a drunken, broken man who wanders about the town, out of his mind and in rags. He is befriended only by his godfather’s daughter, a childhood friend, who gives him a small room.
Mayakin (mah-YAH-kihn), Foma Gordeyev’s godfather, in whose house Foma lived until he was six years old. Mayakin takes a personal interest in his godson’s life and fortune. He advises, and intervenes; finally, he takes a power of attorney over Gordeyev’s holdings and sends Foma to a mental hospital after he makes his outraged speech exposing the lives of respectable townsmen.
Liuboff (LEW-bof), Mayakin’s daughter, Foma’s friend from childhood. She never understands him but tries to do so by discussing ideas with him. She gives him sanctuary after his release from the asylum.
Ignat Gordeyev (ihg-NAHT),...
(The entire section is 424 words.)