The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

In What Makes Sammy Run? Schulberg appears to have invented a new stock character: Sammy Glick. Perhaps growing up in poverty in a New York City ghetto has made him a man without a conscience: totally self-centered, young, pushy, ruthless, conniving, smart, immoral, possessed of extraordinary energy, and determined to succeed. He is incapable of friendship or love; he uses men to further his career, and he uses women and discards them. What he lacks in ability (he can only feed on other’s ideas), he makes up in a kind of secondary creativity. He can take someone else’s stories, elaborate upon them, and sell them.

The novel’s other character’s are also stock characters, but more familiar kinds. The narrator of the novel, Al Manheim, is Sammy’s foil. He is intelligent, literate, and moral, a man who believes in social and family ties. The reader knows he is reliable, for he was educated at Wesleyan and is a son of a rabbi from a small New England town. He thus combines traditional Jewish moral authority with the New England virtues of honesty and plain-speaking. Like most readers, he hates what Sammy does, but his hatred alternates with fascination.

Almost all of the other characters are also American Jews. Although Julian Blumberg is a talented writer, he is woefully unassertive. He is a good man; he has a good wife. He exists to be duped, used, and discarded by the likes of Sammy. Sidney Fineman is another such character....

(The entire section is 534 words.)

What Makes Sammy Run? Characters

Although his fictional characters have fictional names, readers have ascribed the names of real people to almost all of Schulberg's...

(The entire section is 570 words.)