Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Prior Walter

Prior Walter, a thirty-one-year-old man with AIDS. When his illness becomes serious, he is abandoned by his lover, Louis Ironson. A member of a very old American and British family, he is chosen by the Angels to become a prophet and tell humankind to stop changing and progressing, to give up trying to answer impossible questions. After wrestling with the Angel, Prior is allowed to visit heaven, where he tells the angelic counsel that he will not be their prophet and that humankind cannot stop striving. He asks the Angels to let him live, for no matter how painful life is, he wants more of it.

Louis Ironson

Louis Ironson, a word processor for the Second Court of Appeals in Brooklyn and Prior Walter’s lover. Devoted to Marxism and idealistic leftist politics, Louis tends to intellectualize things. He cannot face Prior’s illness and abandons his lover. He has an affair with Joe Pitt and tries to accept Joe’s justification for selfishness. When he learns that Joe has been the power behind a number of right-wing court decisions, he goads Joe into attacking him physically and beating him. He returns to Prior begging for forgiveness, but even though Prior loves Louis, he will not take him back.

Roy M. Cohn

Roy M. Cohn, a character based upon the actual lawyer of the same name. He is a powerful figure in conservative and right-wing politics. Cohn is an aggressive, ferocious, and sometimes charming man who is not afraid of anything, including breaking the law. Cohn was a prosecutor in the 1950’s treason trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who were found guilty of selling secrets to the Soviet Union. Cohn illegally lobbied the judge to give Ethel Rosenberg the...

(The entire section is 718 words.)