Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 615


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Michael, a guilt-ridden, thirty-year-old homosexual whose sole purpose in life is to avoid his feelings. When unable to cope on a daily basis, he escapes into characterizations of past female screen stars. If reality becomes more threatening, he takes a jet to some distant location, then spends extravagant sums of money he does not have. Until recently, alcohol had been another escape. After selling one unproduced screenplay, he gave up writing. Because he does not have any other source of income, he spends most of his time avoiding creditors. Michael backslides to the bottle when the all-male birthday party he is throwing for his friend Harold is crashed by Alan, his former Georgetown University roommate who is straight and not aware of Michael’s homosexuality. Michael’s hostility increases, to the point at which he invents an insidious emotional game designed to hurt and demoralize his guests.


Donald, a responsible, hardworking gay man who scrubs floors for a living. At the age of twenty-eight, he views his life as a failure and is committed to therapy. He is an intelligent man and an avid reader. At the birthday party, it is revealed that he had a one-night stand at a bathhouse with Hank’s lover Larry.


Hank, a math teacher in superb athletic condition. Thirty-two-year-old Hank has left his wife and children for a relationship with Larry. Deeply in love, he is frustrated by Larry’s unwillingness to be faithful. This tension prompts continuous barbs between the two. Hank becomes the only gay man with whom the straight Alan can relate.


Larry, a commercial artist and Hank’s twenty-nine-year-old lover. He has a strong sexual appetite and, even though he confesses during Michael’s game to loving Hank more than anyone else, he still cannot promise to be monogamous in their relationship. Although he becomes jealous of the attention that Alan is giving to Hank, he continues to flirt with Donald.


Emory, an effeminate, campy interior decorator. The small, frail thirty-three-year-old is a somewhat pathetic character. Shunned by mainstream society, he has found a friend in a member of another minority—Bernard, the black man whom he incessantly derides.


Bernard, an employee of the library’s circulation department. Although he has experienced prejudice because he is black as well as gay, he feels more fortunate than the flagrantly effeminate Emory. That is why he allows Emory—and only Emory—to belittle him at times. As proud as Bernard is, Michael manages to humiliate him during his game. He coaxes Bernard into telephoning a white man whom Bernard has loved since the time he and his mother worked for the man’s family, when the man was only a boy.


Harold, an unattractive, gay Jewish man. Harold is thirty-two years old, and it is his birthday being celebrated. He is obsessed with his lack of good looks, poor complexion, and fleeting youth. Harold arrives at the party late and intoxicated. He receives a beautiful but moronic male hustler as a gift from Emory.


Alan, a thirty-year-old lawyer with a wife and two daughters. Although Alan is Michael’s former roommate from Georgetown University, he is unaware of Michael’s homosexuality. When he arrives at the party uninvited, he discovers that he is the only heterosexual present. Someone as effete as Emory is repulsive to him, and Alan physically attacks him. During the game in which he is compelled to participate, Michael tries to extract a homosexual confession from him. Instead, Alan calls his wife and pledges his love to her.


Cowboy, a muscular, good-looking, and vacuous twenty-two-year-old hustler. He is Emory’s twenty-dollar birthday present to Harold.


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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial....

(The entire section contains 1733 words.)

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Critical Essays