(Great Characters in Literature)

Characters Discussed


Arthur, who first appears as an impoverished young art student. A poetic and visionary neurotic—like the playwright himself, whose first name he shares—Arthur is fascinated by the creative possibilities of pinball machines, an American invention that is a Parisian craze in the post-World War II era. He constantly thinks of ways to improve pinball games to make them seem new and challenging without really changing their basic principles. His interest brings him into contact with the tycoon who manufactures and leases the machines. Over the years, Arthur becomes hopelessly entrapped by the meaningless, time-wasting contraptions, using them as an escape from the emptiness of modern existence. For a while, he makes money from his creative contributions to the company, always referred to as “The Organization,” but he falls out of favor when his inspiration ceases. He is in love with Annette, but his impractical nature prevents him from earning an income that would make him a suitable husband. In the last act, Arthur, in his seventies, is an underpaid elementary school teacher who devotes his free time to playing the game of Ping-Pong with his friend Victor.


Victor, who as a young man is equally addicted to pinball machines but is more practical than Arthur. Victor is studying medicine; he later manages to get a medical license and establish a satisfactory practice. He continues to keep in touch with his friend Arthur and is still not free from pinball machines. He discovers that he can obtain patients by frequenting places where pinball machines are played. In the last act, he is an affluent retired physician whose only interest in life is playing Ping-Pong with Arthur. While overexerting himself during one of their heated, acrimonious contests, Victor suffers a heart attack and dies. In a...

(The entire section is 770 words.)