See Arty Kurnitz.
Arty Kurnitz, a thirteen-year-old boy, is Eddie's youngest boy. Arty is forced to live with his grandma Kurnitz for ten months while his father works off a debt to a loan shark. Arty prefers to go by ''Arty,’’ but his grandma calls him "Arthur," so he reluctantly accepts this name. Arty gets sick during the play and is forced by his grandma to drink her horrid mustard soup. Arty is afraid of his Uncle Louie, a mob henchman, especially when Louie tries to force Arty to open his mysterious satchel. Jay sticks up for Arty in this instance. By the end of the play, however, Arty misses his Uncle Louie, who has enlisted in the military to avoid some other mob henchmen. Bella confides in Arty and Jay about her marriage plans when she cannot find anybody else to talk to.
Aunt Bella Kurnitz
Aunt Bella is Grandma Kurnitz's mentally impaired daughter and the aunt of Jay and Arty Kurnitz. Bella is the most dynamic character in the play. In the beginning, much emphasis is placed on Bella's mental condition. Bella tends to walk around in a daze, which the audience eventually learns is one of the ways she copes with her dysfunctional home life. Bella is a daydreamer and likes to spend her time at the movie theater. Here, Bella meets an illiterate usher that she wants to marry. She also hopes to start a business with him but needs five thousand dollars to do this. Bella is nervous about bringing this topic up with her family, especially her mother. As a result, Bella invites the whole family to a dinner during which she attempts to spring the news on them. However, she is unable to figure out a way to do this and so must rely on Jay to help her reveal her news, by prompting her with questions.
Despite her fear of her mother, Bella stands up to Grandma Kurnitz three times in the play. In the beginning, when Grandma Kurnitz refuses to let Jay and Arty stay with her, Bella threatens to leave her mother if the boys cannot stay. During the dinner, she launches into a speech, asserting her independence and causing her mother to leave the room without saying a word. Finally, at the end of the play, Bella digs up her mother's painful past—when her mother lost two children. Bella says that she is going to raise her children differently, showering them with love instead of withholding it for fear of losing them and having to deal with heartbreak. At the end of the play, Bella is totally transformed. She has a new friend and a potential date. She talks to her mother very boldly and acts strong and independent.
Eddie Kurnitz is the son of Grandma Kurnitz and the father of Jay and Arty Kurnitz. He is forced to leave his boys with his mother so that he can go south, take advantage of the need for workers during the war and ultimately pay off a debt that he owes to a loan shark. Eddie gained this debt when he paid for his deceased wife's hospital bills. Eddie feels that the only way to repay the debt is to work hard, and he works so hard that he makes himself sick. Throughout the play, Eddie sends periodic letters to his boys and his mother, which are read to the audience in voice-over. These letters set the tone for each scene and make Eddie a major character, despite the fact that he is only physically present in the first and last scenes.
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