Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Lavinia Mannon, the daughter of Christine and Ezra Mannon. Tall, flat-breasted, angular, and imperious in manner, Lavinia is fond of her father and fiercely jealous of her mother. While Ezra was fighting in the Civil War, Christine had an affair with Captain Adam Brant. Unconscious desire to have Adam for herself leads Lavinia to demand that Christine give up Adam or face a scandal that would ruin the family name. Unable to go on living with a husband she despises, Christine plots with Adam to poison Ezra when he returns. Ezra is murdered, and Lavinia discovers her mother’s guilt. When her brother Orin returns, wounded and distraught, from the war, Lavinia tries to enlist his aid in avenging their father’s death. Orin refuses until Lavinia proves Christine’s guilt by a ruse. Blaming Adam for the murder, Orin goes to Adam’s ship and shoots him. When Orin reveals to Christine what he has done, she kills herself. Orin and Lavinia then close the Mannon house and voyage to the South Seas. Symbolically liberated from the repressiveness of the New England Puritan tradition, Lavinia blossoms into a duplicate of her voluptuous mother. She plans to marry and start a new life. Orin, hounded by his guilt and going mad, threatens to reveal the Mannons’ misdeeds and tries to extort from Lavinia a lover’s promise never to leave him. Lavinia agrees but ruthlessly drives Orin to suicide. Now convinced that the Mannon blood is tainted with...
(The entire section is 792 words.)
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Captain Adam Brant
Brant is the black sheep of the Mannon family; it is his quest for revenge that propels the play. When his father, David Mannon, is exiled from his family for marrying Marie Brantome, Brant's family falls into ruin. When he is old enough, he runs off to sea. When he returns, he discovers his father has drunk himself to death, and, shockingly, David's nephew, Ezra, refused to help Brant's poor, sick mother.
After his mother's death, Adam vows revenge on the other Mannons. This desire for vengeance motivates his pursuit of Christine and ultimately drives the play's action.
(The entire section is 98 words.)
Lavinia is the daughter of Ezra and Christine Mannon and Orin's sister. She is meant to resemble the Electra figure in O'Neill's retelling of the Orestia. She is a manipulative, evil woman.
Although she is somewhat in love with Captain Brant, she convinces Orin to kill him. She then drives her mother Christine to suicide. The two siblings travel to the South Seas to escape their mutual guilt and Lavinia sleeps with a local man. Exploiting Orin's feelings of guilt over Brant's murder and their mother's suicide, she drives him to commit suicide too.
Toward the end of the play, Lavinia almost believes it possible for her to be happy and escape the guilt of her past. Ultimately, she realizes that as the last Mannon, she has sinned and must punish herself. In the last scene, she orders the flowers removed from the house, the windows shut up, and closes herself inside, presumably never to exit alive.
Lavinia presents a complex character, with strong and forbidden desires as well as powerful, if reprehensible, needs for revenge. In a sense, she seems trapped in a web of emotional and sexual desires—for her father Ezra, her brother Orin, and her mother's lover Brant. Moreover, she acts without conscience—until the end, when her conscience comes back to haunt her.
(The entire section is 218 words.)
Brigadier-General Ezra Mannon
Ezra is Christine's husband and father of Lavinia and Orin. He is the patriarch of the Mannon family. As the play opens, he returns from the Civil War.
A hardhearted businessman, Ezra refuses to help his brother's Canadian-Indian wife Marie Brantome when she really needs it. As a result, she dies and her son, Adam Brant, vows revenge.
Realizing the precarious nature of his marriage to Christine, he hopes to reconcile with her after he returns from the war. He is oblivious to her plans to murder him until they are making love—the realization that she wants to kill him causes him to have a heart attack. Christine gives him poison instead of medicine and he dies.
(The entire section is 118 words.)
Orin is the youngest son of Ezra and Christine. A First Lieutenant of Infantry, he served in the Civil War under his father and is recognized as a courageous soldier. After getting wounded, he returns from the war overcome by the death and destruction.
In love with his mother, Orin helps Lavinia murder her mother's lover, Brant. He does this to revenge the murder of his father; also, he is jealous of Brant's relationship with his mother.
Orin is engaged to Hazel. She wants to take Orin away from Lavinia, perceiving the destructive and sick bond the two siblings have. Yet Orin will not allow this; he even suggests to Lavinia that they consummate their relationship as a way of binding themselves together in sin and guilt.
Orin writes his confession and history of Mannon family sins, which he threatens to give to Peter if Lavinia leaves him. Orin's guilt and incestuous feelings lead to his destruction. He feels he has lost the love of his mother and of his sister.
Eventually Orin breaks his engagement with Hazel and commits suicide, "accidentally" killing himself while cleaning his gun.
(The entire section is 188 words.)
A middle-aged carpenter, Amos and his wife Louisa form part of the chorus in Homecoming and The Haunted.
Louisa is the wife of Amos. She appears as part of the chorus of local people in Homecoming and has a taste for vicious gossip.
Doctor Joseph Blake
Doctor Blake is a "stout," "self-important" family physician, who, as part of the chorus in The Hunted, provides background on Ezra's medical condition. After relating Ezra's symptoms, Christine has convinced the doctor of the seriousness of her husband's heart condition. This helps Christine conceal the actual cause of Ezra's death—murder by poison.
A manager of the Mannon family's shipping company, Josh and his wife Emma appear as part of the chorus of town folk in The Hunted, providing insight into the backgrounds of Christine and the family.
The Chantyman chats with Brant near the ship in The Hunted and gives him information about Ezra. Brant gives him money to continue drinking, and the Chantyman leaves.
Hazel is Peter Niles' sister and Orin's fiancee. She loves Orin and tries unsuccessfully to separate him from his sister Lavinia. Less naive than her brother Peter, Hazel sees the evil surrounding the Mannon...
(The entire section is 651 words.)