Mrs. Chauvenet is an old friend of the family. She is a member of the town’s social circle, which Veta wants Myrtle to break into, and so they both flatter her and curry her favor. She is delighted to see Elwood, whom she has not seen in a while, until he introduces her to Harvey: then, suspecting his sanity, she hastily apologizes and leaves.
Dr. Chumley’s wife shows up just briefly in Act I, Scene II. Like Veta, she is more concerned with socializing than with science: told that her husband has to examine a patient, she tells him, ‘‘Give a little quick diagnosis, Willie—we don’t want to be late to the party.’’ She has a conversation with Elwood while he is looking for Harvey, and then later, when everyone at the sanitarium thinks that it is Veta who believes in the imaginary rabbit, she mentions his friend Harvey, making them all realize that they have mistakenly committed the wrong person.
Dr. William B. Chumley
Chumley is an esteemed psychiatrist and the head of the sanitarium, ‘‘Chumley’s Rest,’’ to which Veta has Elwood taken. He is a difficult, exacting man, feared by his subordinates, unwilling to tolerate his mistakes. After a night out drinking with Elwood, though, Dr. Chumley comes to see Harvey, and after that, he discusses Harvey’s attributes with Elwood. Told that Harvey can stop time, allowing one to leave their ordinary life for some time and go somewhere else, he describes an elaborate fantasy that has apparently been fomenting in his mind for a long time. In his fantasy, he would go to a campground outside of Akron, Ohio, and live with a beautiful woman, who would drink beer with him and listen to all of his innermost secrets and stroke his head and say, ‘‘Poor thing! Oh, you poor, poor thing!’’
Elwood P. Dowd
Elwood P. Dowd is the central character of the play, a friendly eccentric who spends his days and nights in the taverns of his unnamed town. Elwood’s best friend is Harvey, an invisible six-foot-tall rabbit. The play leaves open several possibilities regarding exactly what Harvey is, whether he is a figment of Elwood’s imagination, as the psychiatrists would like to believe, or he is, as Elwood asserts, a supernatural being known as a pooka. The relevant events in Elwood’s past that would account for his relationship with an imaginary, giant rabbit are only hinted at. No information is given about any job he may have ever been employed at, only that he took care of his mother until the time that she died and that she left ‘‘all of her property’’ to him, which implies that the family is rich and that he may have never worked.
Elwood is a charmer, always pleasant when talking to people, even those who, like Wilson, address him gruffly. He has a stack of calling cards in his pocket and takes one out to offer to each new person he meets. He invites strangers to dinner at his house, including a woman who calls selling magazine subscriptions and a cab driver who brings Elwood’s sister, Veta, out to the sanitarium. He is gallant toward Nurse Kelly, picking flowers for her and complimenting her on her beauty.
There are hints that Elwood has known disappointment in his life, and that Harvey may be a manifestation of this. He is clearly displeased with his past when he says to Nurse Kelly, ‘‘For you I would do anything. I would almost be willing to live my life over again. Almost.’’ Speaking of the choice between being smart or pleasant, he tells Dr. Chumley, ‘‘For years I was smart. I recommend pleasant,’’ indicating a break with the past. The most significant indication of his self-image comes in Act II Scene II, when he describes the ‘‘golden moments’’ that he has with strangers in taverns, who tell him about the big things they have done and that they intend to do, and then, as he sees it, they are impressed with Harvey because he is ‘‘bigger and grander than anything they offer me.’’ Harvey gives Elwood hope when he thinks about all of the things that he has not done while wasting his life away drinking.
Judge Omar Gaffney
The judge is an old family friend of the Dowds, a representative of the people in town who are accustomed to seeing Elwood talking to Harvey and who do not think anything of it. He is the family’s lawyer;...
(The entire section is 1793 words.)
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