Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Professor Leopold Nettles

Professor Leopold Nettles, the protagonist, a philosopher and the writer of a book that contains a paragraph that the authorities deem subversive. He seems most concerned about his bodily functions, and he paces his apartment like a wild animal in a cage. He is unable to write and is handicapped by the constant pressure of impending imprisonment. Most of the time, he drinks rum and takes pills while waiting to be taken away. He claims to be a coward who lacks human integrity and doubts himself capable of love. He quotes from things he has said as if he is some other person, and he quotes what Bertram has told him he is. In short, he is not himself but only a hollow shell who remains, although he resents it, a prisoner to everyone else’s expectations of who he is. He is a symbol of truth and conviction to the outside world. Leopold is also the playwright’s literary analogy to himself.


Edward, a friend of Leopold who empathizes with Leopold’s situation and encourages him to go out or at least to keep the window open. Edward’s genuine interest, however, is in Suzana. He disengages himself from Leopold at Suzana’s entrance, speaking with her in the kitchen and taking her first to the movies and later to a dinner dance. Edward represents opportunists who sympathize but will not be personally inconvenienced.


Suzana, Leopold’s wife. She lives with Leopold and shops for him but is continually angry at him. She emphasizes the impracticality of Leopold’s existence: She assures him that he cannot eat an egg with a silver spoon and that he does not know how to wash a pot. In addition, her behavior suggests that she even has to sleep with another man. She does not want Leopold to recant and live a normal life, yet she wishes a normal...

(The entire section is 757 words.)