The character of John Flannery Kittredge, or “Flan,” is multi-faceted. Two of the main aspects that compete for dominance are his attachment to art and his love for money. While Flan definitely loves art for its aesthetic qualities, he cannot separate quality from the monetary value attached to an artwork. His urge to possess the artwork, however, seems far stronger than his ability to appreciate its artistry. The playwright describes him as an art lover who is not himself artsy. We also learn from Ouisa that Flan is a former lawyer.
The internal conflict can be seen in his attitude toward the Cezanne painting and toward Geoffrey Miller. Flan clearly admires the virtuoso performance that the painting represents, as he fondly describes the use of color in the projected slide. But admiration is not enough to satisfy Flan. He covets the painting and cannot rest until he owns it.
The ambiguous ethical position of Miller, who owns South African gold mines, is only slightly troubling to Flan. While he vaguely understands the country’s political and economic problems, he views the position of Miller—who is white—as a technicality imposed by an unfair government.
Despite his desire for the painting, Flan still feels awkward in approaching Miller. He says it is “awful” to have “truly rich folk for friends.” This distinction between his and Ouisa’s wealth as inadequate compared to Miller’s fortune indicates his over-estimation of money. The couple rationalizes that they “need” the two million dollars to complete their purchase of the painting. When Geoffrey agrees to invest, he recommends that they resell the painting to the Japanese. With this, the audience realizes that the Cezanne work primarily represents a step in a business deal.