Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 752
Pavlo Hummel, an army private and medic during the Vietnam War. Pavlo has red hair and green eyes, is five feet, ten inches tall, and weighs 152 pounds. Estranged from his family, Pavlo has had his name legally changed from Michael to spite the father whose identity he has never known. He worries about whether to hug his mother when he returns home. Although he grew up in New York City, Pavlo is inexperienced and innocent; his street-smart persona is an act, and the other men see through it easily. Neurotically obsessed with the impression others have of him, Pavlo lies about his sexual exploits and his experiences in crime. He claims to have stolen twenty-three cars and to have had an uncle who was executed at San Quentin prison for killing four people. He never suspects or realizes that the other men know he is lying and that they are laughing at him. Pavlo thinks that he can win friends by being a good soldier, so he resorts to flattering sergeants and volunteering for difficult tasks. When he realizes that no number of push-ups will win the friendship and respect he craves, Pavlo swallows one hundred aspirin, but he is saved by the squad leader, Pierce. Pavlo is determined to prove himself in the infantry, but he is assigned to be a medic. He follows his orders to the letter but is ashamed of his job and repeatedly asks to be transferred to the battlefield. At one point, Pavlo talks Sergeant Brisbey out of committing suicide, but his efforts lack sincerity. Parham is wounded by Vietcong and cries out for Pavlo’s help while Pavlo is asking for transfer. Pavlo carries Parham’s body to safety, more out of a desire to impress others with his bravery than out of any concern for Parham. Finally, Pavlo is assigned to the fighting. He is wounded three times and earns the Purple Heart before he wants out, but ironically his request is refused. Pavlo is killed in a senseless incident arising from a fight over a prostitute. A grenade rolls into the room, and Pavlo scoops it up and is holding it when it explodes. He takes several days to die. Despite the changes in Pavlo as he becomes harder and more cynical, the young man never acquires any real insight.
Ardell, a soldier Pavlo creates in his fantasies. A black man in sunglasses and a strange uniform with black ribbons and medals, Ardell enters and exits throughout the play to advise Pavlo. Ardell’s is an experienced and prophetic voice; the soldier teaches Pavlo about the Army and war. Ardell says that Pavlo is black inside, hiding such intense pain that the young man cannot even see himself clearly.
Sergeant Tower, the drill sergeant. A tough black man, Tower singles out Pavlo and makes him do punitive push-ups on the first day of basic training. Throughout the play, Tower gives instructions on combat and first aid. He tells the soldiers what to do when they are lost.
Kress, one of the men in Pavlo’s unit. Large and muscular, Kress does not understand much. He flunks the proficiency test and has to repeat basic training. Kress constantly complains about being cold, even in the furnace room. Kress despises Pavlo.
Yen, a Vietnamese prostitute. Dressed in purple silk pajamas, Yen is the first woman with whom Pavlo has sex; he visits her regularly.
Pierce, the squad leader. Pierce does not participate in the harassment of Pavlo, but he understands why the other men dislike him. Pierce’s main concern is his responsibility as leader. He is afraid of how violent incidents will reflect on him, tarnishing his military record.
Sergeant Wall, a friend of Sergeant Brisbey. After being beaten in a fight with Pavlo over Yen, Wall throws a grenade into the room.
Sergeant Brisbey, one of Pavlo’s patients. Brisbey stepped on a mine...
(The entire section contains 1994 words.)
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