Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Sidney Brustein, a cynical, disillusioned intellectual living in a Greenwich Village apartment with his wife, Iris. An idealist in his youth, Sidney had been involved with all manner of causes and was active on various committees advocating social change. Now in his early thirties, he epitomizes the alienated white intellectual searching for meaning in his life. As the disappointed, disinterested dreamer, Sidney has withdrawn from social and political action to run a failed coffee house and, subsequently, to attempt running a community newspaper. As a newspaper owner, he helps to elect a local reform candidate, whom he then discovers is in the pay of the crime syndicate. Both the coffee house and the newspaper reflect his efforts to escape to an ideal world. Circumstances force Sidney to realize that his mask of cynical detachment prevents him from seeing life realistically and allows others to manipulate his political naïveté. He learns, as well, that in the absence of committed involvement by responsible individuals, chaos, disintegration, and failure may well result.
Iris Parodus Brustein
Iris Parodus Brustein, Sidney’s wife, an aspiring but unsuccessful actress. She is a young and pretty woman, with long, flowing hair that Sidney is always letting down. Iris is several years younger than Sidney and is the realist of the two. She feels stifled in their marriage. The pressure of trying both to conform to and yet escape from Sidney’s image of her as a rustic, naïve, and unsophisticated woman-child whom he has educated has worn on her nerves. Her own inability to overcome her fear of auditions has also taken its toll. Iris is capable of rebellion, of making changes, and of taking control of her life back into her own hands.
Mavis Parodus Bryson
Mavis Parodus Bryson, Iris’ traditional, matronly older sister and the family conservative. She is married to a wealthy businessman and has three sons. Although she is almost a stereotype of the staid, meddling, racist, and parochial elder sister who cannot understand the lifestyle of...
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