Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 585


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Chudakov (chuh-dah-KOV), a Soviet inventor. He is a visionary who wants to build a time machine that will enable people to extend moments of joy and contract periods of sorrow. Single-minded, serious, hardworking, and without government support, he succeeds in making contact with the future. At the end of the play, his invention carries him and many others a hundred years into the future.

The Phosphorescent Woman

The Phosphorescent Woman, an emissary from the year 2030 who is contacted by Chudakov’s invention. She comes from a time when Communism has triumphed worldwide. Articulate and authoritative, she intends to bring into the perfect state those twentieth century citizens most responsible for building it. Her Communism is humanitarian rather than ideological, commonsensical rather than doctrinaire.


Pobedonosikov (poh-bee-doh-NOH-see-kov), the chief of the Federal Bureau of Coordination. He is a Soviet bureaucrat in love with power. Although he speaks the jargon of an egalitarian people’s revolution, he delights in acquiring privileges and pulling rank. He maintains authority by reminding everyone of his (self-inflated) role in the 1917 Revolution. When the Phosphorescent Woman arrives to carry the best Communists into the future, he tries to control the operation but instead is left behind.


Velosipedkin (veh-loh-see-PEHD-kihn), an official from the Young Communist League. A worker dedicated to socialism, he is practical, aggressive, and savvy. At first skeptical of Chudakov’s invention, he later becomes its strongest advocate. He battles bureaucrats in the attempt to get government support and, after the arrival of the Phosphorescent Woman, helps choose the best Communists for transportation to the future.


Optimistenko (op-tee-MEE-stehn-koh), Pobedonosikov’s secretary. the quintessential bureaucrat, he shields his boss from the petitions of ordinary citizens. He is dedicated to following procedures rather than to achieving results. For each petitioner in the long queue, he has a different excuse why his boss cannot help. While worrying if the time machine has food service, he is left behind.


Polya (POH-lyah), Pobedonosikov’s wife. Tired of her husband’s marital arrogance and extramarital affairs, she is a secret supporter of the time machine. Ironically, she secures money from an embezzler in Pobedonosikov’s office to finance a key phase of Chudakov’s experiment. She convinces the Phosphorescent Woman that she belongs in the future, when married couples will be more honest and more affectionate.

Isaac Belvedonsky

Isaac Belvedonsky (behl-veh-DOHN-skih), a painter and photographer. He lacks artistic ability and artistic integrity. He sells his work to Pobedonosikov by catering to the bureau chief’s ego and acquisitiveness. He specializes in bourgeois objects with a revolutionary twist, for example, a Louis Quatorze sofa decorated with hammer-and-sickle fabric.

Pont Kich

Pont Kich (kihch), a British visitor who is in Russia to admire Soviet achievements. He speaks a kind of fractured Russian, mixing English vocabulary and Russian syntax. He indiscriminately praises what he sees and uncritically accepts what his bureaucratic guides tell him, that the Soviets have already achieved the Communist ideal.

Madame Mezalyansova

Madame Mezalyansova (meh-zah-LYAN-tsoh-vah), an interpreter who escorts Pont Kich. She is Pobedonosikov’s mistress and flaunts her status in front of Polya.

The Director of the Play

The Director of the Play, who becomes a character for one scene. Close to exasperation, he reasons with the actors who perform the roles of bureaucrats when they threaten to abandon their parts. the actors complain that they portray ignoble, unworthy social types. Desperate to save the play, he convinces them to continue the performance by introducing an uplifting, ideological pantomime into the play.

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