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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 303

In Donald Bartolome's short story "The Balloon," none of the characters are ever given a name. Instead they are identified by their status or purpose as "citizens," "people," "experts," "authorities," and "children," except for the Narrator.

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The Narrator is the one who inflated the balloon at night while people were sleeping. The balloon is huge—over twenty-five blocks. The Narrator variously calls the balloon a situation, then a circumstance, then called a concrete particular, and finally a passive something that is just "there."

The Narrator reveals toward the end of the story he was missing his partner, who was visiting Norway. The balloon was the Narrator’s way of trying to express how he felt at the partner’s absence. When the Narrator’s partner returns, he decides the balloon is no longer needed, and the balloon is taken down. Its purpose is fulfilled, but it may return later.

Other unnamed characters include experts who carry out tests looking for how to remove or destroy the balloon. The Narrator hid his pumps, so the experts and authorities decide removing the balloon can not be done.

Children enjoy the balloon. They bounce on it and play with it and around it.

Unnamed adults, citizens, or the general public start to think of themselves in relation to the balloon. Some decide they derive pleasure from thinking about it and viewing it.

Each person’s response reflects their outlook on life. One person thinks the balloon is not as beautiful as the sky, even though it is the middle of a cold, overcast, and gloomy winter. Another person thinks the balloon is an unexpected gift. Others decide the balloon gives them change from the routine of their lives. The balloon becomes for each of them what they wish it to be, what they project upon it.

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