James Callifer, an employee of a provincial newspaper in central England. Although he is in his mid-forties, he is immature, self-centered, diffident, and occasionally suicidal. He is seeing a psychiatrist, who is trying to help him cope with feelings that life is meaningless, that he is a failure, that he is incapable of loving another human being, and that he has been rejected by his family for some dark deed that he has suppressed from consciousness. In this highly symbolic play, the protagonist represents modern humanity, which has lost its way because of its abandonment of religious faith.
Mrs. Callifer, an upper-middle-class housewife, the mother of James and John. At the age of seventy, she is still a handsome, dignified woman. She has devoted her life to the service of her husband, who was once an internationally noted writer of rationalist, atheistic works in the spirit of George Bernard Shaw and Bertrand Russell but has faded into obscurity. After her husband’s death offstage in the first scene of the play, she realizes that he was a weak man who needed her protection and that he was not only cruel but also intellectually dishonest. She confesses to James that she has kept him away from his father for many years because H. C. Callifer’s entire belief system as well as his published works and reputation had been jeopardized by a “miracle” that occurred in the potting shed thirty years earlier.
John Callifer, a prosperous banker roughly fifty years old. In striking contrast to his younger brother, James, John is pompous, self-assured, and insensitive. His main function in the play is to represent what his father must have been like in his prime. Having adopted all of his father’s views, John has...
(The entire section is 751 words.)