Karl Rossman, a fifteen-or sixteen-year-old youth who leaves his native Prague to seek his fortune in America. A sensitive, naïve adolescent who has been treated unfairly by his parents, Karl arrives in America with little money and few possessions but with a strong determination to triumph over circumstances. He is hardworking, eager to learn, and willing to make sacrifices—in many ways, it would seem, the ideal immigrant. His first experiences in America, however, are nightmarish, comically so in their reversal of the immigrant’s dreams. Karl sees justice travestied, is himself falsely accused and beaten, and becomes a fugitive, finding a place only among the outcast. After a hiatus in the narrative (perhaps several years), however, Karl regains hope and responds to a poster advertising jobs with the Theatre of Oklahoma (apparently a government project on a fan-tastic scale). In a spirit of rejoicing, Karl leaves on a rail journey across America, secure in the belief that in Oklahoma he will at last realize his dreams for himself in the New World.
Senator Edward Jacob
Senator Edward Jacob, Karl’s wealthy uncle, a proud, stuffy, self-made man. Karl meets this red-faced gentleman with a thin bamboo cane in the ship’s office. The owner of Jacob Despatch Agency in New York, he has acquired American citizenship and severed all ties to his European past. Jacob exults in saving his nephew from a life...
(The entire section is 594 words.)