Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 612
Ivan Prisypkin (prih-SIHP-kihn), alias Pierre Skripkin, a former worker and Communist Party member. A man with philistine values and tastes, intent on improving his social status, Prisypkin pretentiously adopts the French name Pierre and abandons his working-class girlfriend, Zoya, to marry Elzevira, a member of the petit bourgeoisie. Amid the drunken revelry of his wedding celebration, the house burns down. All the bodies of the wedding party are recovered except Prisypkin’s. Fifty years later, when Prisypkin’s frozen body is discovered in an ice-filled cellar, he is unfrozen. the boisterous, vulgar Prisypkin, who curses, drinks, sings, and plays the guitar, finds himself out of place in a sterile, rationally planned, regimented futuristic society. Placed in a cage in a zoo when other citizens are infected by his contagious behavior and begin to imitate him, he is put on display along with the bedbug resurrected with him as a specimen and relic of the bourgeois past. In the final scene of the play, Prisypkin, alone and dismayed, suddenly turns to the audience and joyfully recognizes the spectators as fellow human beings who share his weaknesses and vices.
Zoya Berezkina (ZOH-yah beh-RYOZ-kih-nah), a working girl. A simple, modest, unpretentious young woman in love with Prisypkin, Zoya is driven to despair when she is jilted by Prisypkin. She shoots herself but survives the suicide attempt and reappears fifty years later as a professor’s assistant who witnesses the resurrection of Prisypkin. Confronted again with Prisypkin, she realizes her folly in having attempted suicide over such a vulgarian.
Elzevira Davidovna Renaissance
Elzevira Davidovna Renaissance (ehl-zeh-VEE-rah dah-vih-DOHV-nah), a manicurist and cashier of a beauty parlor. Elzevira, Prisypkin’s fiancée, is an attractive young woman who fusses over Prisypkin and lavishes him with kisses and endearing nicknames. During the drunken revelry at her wedding, she is pushed onto the stove, her veil catches fire, and she perishes in the blaze.
Rosalia Pavlovna Renaissance
Rosalia Pavlovna Renaissance, a hairdresser, Elzevira’s mother. Rosalia is an enterprising, energetic woman eager to have her daughter marry Prisypkin to obtain the privileges that come with Prisypkin’s labor union membership. Protective of her interests, she curses and threatens Zoya when Zoya claims Prisypkin as her own.
Oleg Bayan (BAH-yan), an eccentric house owner. A clever, witty man and amateur poet, he comments ironically on Prisypkin’s behavior, pointing out his shortcomings. He acts as Prisypkin’s companion and mentor, attempting to educate Prisypkin and to raise him to a higher cultural level. Slightly intoxicated, he delivers the main toast at Prisypkin’s wedding.
The Zoo Director
The Zoo Director, who orders that Prisypkin be used as a source of nourishment for the bedbug and has them both placed in a glass case to be exhibited to the public. He pompously delivers the major address at the ceremonies unveiling the resurrected Prisypkin and the bedbug, denouncing both as parasites.
A Professor, an elderly scholar, knowledgeable about the past, who supervises the unfreezing of Prisypkin and explains Prisypkin’s anachronistic speech and behavior to the doctors who assist him.
The Master of Ceremonies
The Master of Ceremonies, who coordinates activities at the celebration to present the resurrected Prisypkin to the public.
The Chairman of the City Council
The Chairman of the City Council, who warns citizens about the cultural danger of Prisypkin’s anachronistic behavior.
A Speaker, the president of the Institute for Human Resurrection. He polls the country and records the vote to resurrect Prisypkin.
David Osipovich Renaissance
David Osipovich Renaissance (oh-SEE-poh-vihch), a hairdresser, Elzevira’s father, who plays a minimal role in the play, appearing only at Elzevira’s wedding.