Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Penelope (Penny) Vanderhof Sycamore
Penelope (Penny) Vanderhof Sycamore, a mother in her mid-fifties, the matriarch of a comic household, carefree and easygoing. Penny clearly loves her family and life itself. After a typewriter is mistakenly delivered to her, she drops her old hobby of painting and begins to write plays. She does both very badly, but with style and good humor.
Paul Sycamore, Penny’s husband and father of the Sycamore brood. Paul has given up ordinary work to construct fireworks in his basement. He often tries them out in the center of the living room. He intends to market them, but his plans never quite work out. Paul is less involved than his wife in the lives of the children because he spends so much time in the basement.
Grandpa Martin Vanderhof
Grandpa Martin Vanderhof, the patriarch and founder of the family’s unconventional lifestyle. The Sycamore family clearly revolves around Grandpa, and his eccentric clear-sightedness saves the day more than once. One day, Grandpa left work and never returned; he spends his life now in a more productive manner, throwing darts, attending commencements, and enjoying his family.
Essie Sycamore Carmichael
Essie Sycamore Carmichael, the elder daughter, who is married. Essie splits her time between making new kinds of candy (successfully) and practicing to become a ballerina...
(The entire section is 500 words.)
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Essie's husband Ed, as the stage directions inform, is a "nonedescript young man" in his thirties. He is a musician and composer who likes to play the xylophone as well as ply his trade as an amateur printer. As a hobby, he uses his hand-press to print sayings which he comes across in the writings of the revolutionary Russian Communist Leon Trotsky such as "God Is the State; the State is God." Proud of his work, he encloses these printed bills in the boxes with Essie's candy. Although Ed prints his slogans just for the fun of it, their political messages attract the attention of the F.B.I., who believe Ed is an insurrectionist attempting to undermine the United States government.
Mrs. Sycamore's eldest daughter, Essie Carmichael, is a 29-year-old aspiring ballerina. She dances her way through the play, improvising steps to her husband Ed's xylophone music and eagerly following the instructions of her dance instructor, Mr. Kolenkhov. She makes candy, naming her newest confections "Love Dreams," but she never takes off her ballet slippers even when she dons her candy-making apron. Like the other Sycamores, Essie is both happily absorbed in tasks which amuse her and wholly undisturbed by the eccentricities of her family.
Mr. De Pinna
Described in the stage directions as a "bald-headed little man with a serious manner," the middle-aged Mr. De Pinna...
(The entire section is 1485 words.)