Orpheus Descending Characters

Character Analysis

Carol Cutrere

Carol Cutrere is David's younger sister. She looks over thirty years old and likes to gain attention by her appearance. Her face and lips are powdered white, her eyes are outlined with black pencil, and her eyelids are painted blue. She admits to Val that she is an exhibitionist who wants to be noticed. She likes to drink and dance and expects to get her way, but she is also, in spite of her exhibitionism, vulnerable and lonely. Her family is the oldest and most distinguished in the area, but she is unpopular in the county. Some years earlier she was involved in civil rights campaigning and, after going on a protest walk wearing nothing but a potato sack, she was arrested for vagrancy. As a result, she is not allowed to stay in the county overnight. The local people gossip maliciously about her, calling her corrupt and degraded. She once met Val in New Orleans, and when he appears in town, she tries to get to know him better, but he is not interested in her. She entices him out on the ruse that her car needs fixing, and Val returns wiping lipstick off his mouth and face. But, it is clear he rejected her advances. After Val's murder, Carol takes his snakeskin jacket as a reminder of the wild freedom he represented.

(The entire section is 224 words.)

Lady Torrance

Lady Torrance is probably in her late thirties and still has a youthful figure. She is a passionate, emotional woman of Italian ancestry, whose state of mind borders on hysteria when she is under pressure. Physically tense, she must take pills to sleep at night. Lady is also lonely and bitter. She feels she has wasted her life, having been married for twenty years to Jabe, a man she hates. She was rushed into the marriage after she was jilted by her first lover, David Cutrere. Lady was pregnant with David's baby at the time, and she had an abortion. She still has hard feelings about David, and when she meets him again, she says he must never return to the store. Lady has also had to endure another tragedy. Her Italian immigrant father died in a blaze deliberately set at his orchard by a mob. She did not know it at the time, but finds out during the course of the play that Jabe was the leader of the mob. Lady has not forgotten her father and remodels the confectionery in the store so that it resembles his wine garden. It is her way of showing that she has not been defeated; she is determined to triumph over adversity. Lady feels liberated by her relationship with Val and becomes pregnant by him, and she exults in the fact that she is able to bear a child.

(The entire section is 237 words.)

Valentine Xavier

Valentine Xavier is a wandering singer and musician of about thirty who is described in the stage directions as having a wild beauty about him. He wears a snakeskin jacket, mottled white, black, and gray. In the bars of New Orleans where he sang and lived wildly, he was known simply as Snake-skin. Val always carries a guitar with him, and he describes it as his ‘‘life's companion.’’ Music saves him whenever he gets into a bad situation. The guitar itself is covered with the autographs of famous blues singers. Val is a free spirit who does not fit into conventional society, and it is significant that the Choctaw cry given by the Conjure Man, a cry of wild intensity, coincides with Val's first entrance.

Val was raised in a place called Witches' Bayou, and he claims to have unusual powers of self-control. He can hold his breath for three minutes, stay awake for forty-eight hours, and not urinate for a day. He also claims that his body temperature is two degrees higher than normal, like a dog's. He left Witches' Bayou when he was in his teens and drifted to New Orleans, where he soon found that women were irresistibly drawn to him, but he eventually tired of their attentions and of the dissipated life he was leading.

Val is basically a good-hearted man who has insight into the deeper longings of life. He can sense what others really need and desire, and he knows how to give comfort when it is needed. He himself says that although he has...

(The entire section is 334 words.)

Other Characters

Beulah Binnings
Beulah Binnings is the middle-aged wife of Pee Wee. She gossips with Dolly about local events and people, and she plays an important role in the prologue, where her monologue serves to inform the audience about the tragic story of Lady's father.

Pee Wee Binnings
Pee Wee Binnings is a small, red-faced planter who keeps company with Dog Hamma. During Val's confrontation with the sheriff, he menaces Val with a knife.

David Cutrere
David Cutrere is Carol's brother. He is tall and handsome, but with a hard look about his face and eyes. A plantation owner, he married a rich girl and now drives a Cadillac. Twenty years earlier, he had a romance with Lady Torrance, but he rejected her, breaking her heart in the process. He appears only in act two, scene one, when he comes to collect Carol, and Lady tries in vain to prevent him from entering the store. He and Lady have an emotional confrontation in which Lady tells him that when he jilted her, she was pregnant. He did not know this before and claims to have little memory of their affair.

Vee Talbott
Vee Talbott, the wife of Sheriff Talbott, is a heavy, sexually frustrated woman in her forties. She is a visionary painter and claims to have been blinded by a vision of the risen Christ. She finds in Val a sympathetic listener. It was Vee who first befriended Val when his car broke down in a storm and he needed a place to stay.

Dog Hamma
Dog Hamma is Dolly's husband and a friend of Pee Wee Binnings. After Val is accused of misconduct with Vee Talbott, Dog joins with...

(The entire section is 668 words.)