Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The husband

The husband, Bahadir Effendi, a retired train conductor (“ticket inspector”), sixty-five years of age, who has been married for nine years to Madame Behana. During that time and especially since his retirement on a modest pension five years ago, he has devoted exclusive attention to an orange tree in the garden of their home. Underneath his precious orange tree resides a lizard called Lady Green, whom only he can see and for whom he professes love. Bahadir and his wife appear to have no relatives or social acquaintances. He seems content to care for his tree, never disagrees with his wife, and says he has lost the habit of being worried and perturbed. His philosophizing, hypothesizing, and inattention to his wife (he admits to the detective that he has thought about killing her) lead to his arrest at the end of act 1 for the murder of his wife, who has disappeared. After Behana returns home, a philosophical motive leads him at the end of act 2 to kill her for real. He feels no guilt thereafter and decides to risk ultimate arrest and possible execution for the sake of his tree, which can be much nourished by burying her corpse under it.

The wife

The wife, Madame Behana (or Bihana), Bahadir’s wife, a woman sixty years of age. She has white hair and always wears a green dress. Bahadir is her second husband. Behana thinks and talks constantly of Bahiyya, the daughter she can never have. As a young woman of nineteen, she acceded to her first husband’s request that she have an abortion. She had named the anticipated girl Bahiyya early in that pregnancy. Later, when their circumstances improved and they wanted children, Behana discovered that she could not get pregnant again. At the death of her first husband, who was a real estate broker, she inherited the house in the Zeitoun suburb of Cairo where she and Bahadir live. When talking with Bahadir, she speaks only of Bahiyya, and he only of his orange tree. Behana has been gone for three days when the play begins and returns shortly after the beginning of act 2. As oblivious to Bahadir’s needs and character as he is to hers, she refuses to respond to his insistent queries about where she was during her absence from home. Bahadir grabs her by the throat to force words out of her, and she dies. Before Bahadir can bury her under his orange tree, however, her corpse disappears.


(The entire section is 984 words.)