Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Dion Anthony, a talented but failed artist and architect. Dion’s dilemma is that of the creative and sensitive artist in the crass, materialistic world. In his youth, he starts on the course of ruination through drink and gambling. His dissipation is reflected in the mask this character sometimes carries and sometimes wears throughout this expressionistic play. In the opening scene, his mask shows the defiance and rebelliousness of a “sensual young Pan” and hides the more spiritual, poetic qualities of Dion’s face. Seven years later, his mask has hardened into an image of a bitter, mocking Mephistopheles, and his face has become more aged and strained but also more ascetic. At this point, Dion’s wife, Margaret, obtains a position for Dion as an architect with Billy Brown, a childhood friend. Although Dion produces successful designs, his disgust over selling out to materialism, to the Great God Brown, helps to complete the ravages on his face and mask. He dies seven years later, his face that of a martyr but his mask completely diabolic in its picture of cruelty and evil.
William A. (Billy) Brown
William A. (Billy) Brown, a successful architect, a good-looking, well-dressed, prosperous businessman. He has always loved Margaret and employs Dion at her request. Brown, however, takes credit for Dion’s ingenuity and designs, a betrayal that contributes to Dion’s decline. Dion dies in Brown’s...
(The entire section is 402 words.)
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O’Neill introduces his protagonist, Dion Anthony, as ‘‘lean and wiry, without repose, continually in restless nervous movement.’’ When he first appears at the dock, Dion’s face is masked. The mask is a ‘‘fixed forcing of his own face—dark, spiritual, poetic, passionately supersensitive, helplessly unprotected in its childlike, religious faith in life—into the expression of a mocking, reckless, defiant, gaily scoffing and sensual young Pan.’’ The audience discovers later that Dion began wearing the mask after his friend Billy Brown betrayed him. He explains that from that moment he became ‘‘silent for life and designed a mask of the Bad Boy Pan in which to live and rebel against that other boy’s God and protect myself from His cruelty.’’ Throughout the play his insecurities tear at him and cause him to hide behind a mask of cruel indifference. At one point he asks himself a series of questions that reveal his anguish:
Why am I afraid to dance, I who love music and rhythm and grace and song and laughter? Why am I afraid to live, I who love life and the beauty of flesh and the living colors of earth and sky and sea? Why am I afraid of love, I who love love? Why must I pretend to scorn in order to pity? Why must I hide myself in self-contempt in order to understand? Why must I be so ashamed of my strength, so proud of my weakness? Why must I live in a cage like a criminal,...
(The entire section is 1899 words.)