Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 575

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Mick

Mick, a man in his late twenties, Aston’s brother. He is the first character seen onstage in the play, although he does not speak or interact with the other characters until the end of act 1. From the outside, he tries to control the other two. When he does speak, he tends to utter either single lines or long incoherent ramblings about unseen friends and relatives, sprinkled with dozens of London place names, financial terms, and interior decorator’s phrases. He owns the derelict building in which Aston has his flat, and he has dreams of converting it into a high-class penthouse, dreams that he has no apparent means to fulfill. He has tried and failed to reconnect with Aston by giving him a home, and he hopes now that he can get to Aston through Davies. Instead, he becomes jealous of Aston’s relationship with Davies and turns his anger on them both.

Aston

Aston, a man in his late thirties. He lives alone in a run-down flat piled high with old paint buckets, boxes of screws and nails, a shopping cart, and even a detached kitchen sink. A former factory worker, he has been unemployed ever since undergoing electric shock treatments years ago. The treatments left him brain-damaged, and he endures terrible headaches. He rescues Davies from a fight and brings him to his own flat, where he offers him a bed, a bit of tobacco for his pipe, an old pair of shoes, and, eventually, a job as caretaker of the building. Aston is planning to build a wooden shed in the backyard and spends hours planning the materials and tools he will need, but clearly he will never even begin the project. Instead, he sits on his bed and pokes at a broken plug with a screwdriver to satisfy his urge to work with his hands. He is unable to stay focused on any one idea very long or to form any real human connections. He plans to complete various tasks or talk with people again after he has built his shed. Although he does not recognize his connection to his brother and to his room, they are all he has, and when Davies tries to come between Aston and Mick, Mick rejects him and clings to the security—and isolation—of his life in the flat.

Davies

Davies, an old tramp from Sidcup. He is argumentative and paranoid, seeing danger in every brown or black face and hearing a threat in every accent different from his own. When Aston rescues him from a fight with a Scot, Davies reveals that this is not the first time he has brawled with foreigners; he stoutly believes that none of these fights was in any way his fault. He worries about his papers, which he has left with a friend in Sidcup; he believes he must retrieve the papers before he can work or move on, yet he makes no effort to go after them. He fears that the junked gas stove in Aston’s flat will kill him, although it is not connected. Frequently, he awakens Aston in the night with the sounds of his dreaming. When he moves in with Aston, he is willing to help out and to assume the unspecified duties of the caretaker, but soon he becomes aggressive and demanding. When he tries to drive a wedge between the brothers, they throw him back on the street.

Characters

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 792

Aston
Aston, in his early thirties, is Mick's brother. He seems quite generous, as is indicated by his rescuing Davies from a potential brawl and later bringing the tramp into his own house. Once he brings Davies home, Aston continues to try to care for him, giving him tobacco, attempting to find shoes for him, and even replacing Davies's bag when it is stolen. Unlike Mick, Aston is gentle and calm, enduring Davies's continual complaints about all that he is offered.

At the end of the second act, Aston reveals what may be at the root of his exceedingly calm nature; sometime before he reached adulthood, he was committed for a time to a mental institution, where he received involuntary electroshock therapy. When in the hospital, Aston says, he counted on his mother to deny permission for the treatments. When she did not, he attempted to escape and, when that failed, physically fought those who attempted to treat him, although his efforts were ultimately futile.

At the time of the play, Aston lives in his brother's house, planning to build a shed that the audience realizes will never materialize. Aston initially accepts a great deal of abuse from Davies, who uses his confession of psychiatric treatment against him. Aston is finally pushed to his limit, however, and tells the old man he must leave. As the play ends, Aston literally turns his back to Davies, as the tramp begs to be allowed to stay.

Mac Davies
Davies is an old man who temporarily moves into the room when Aston rescues him from a brawl. Although Davies was just fired from his menial job, wears old clothes, has no money, and is obviously a tramp, he insists on maintaining what he considers his proper station and refuses to do work he considers beneath him. He also considers himself, as a white Englishman, superior to the Blacks, Greeks, and Poles he rails against. Although Davies does thank Aston for his kindnesses, he complains constantly. Nothing Aston does is good enough for him—the shoes don't fit, the clothes aren't warm enough, and the room itself is too drafty. Davies is also deceitful, even lying about his own name when it suits him. He speaks often of going to Sidcup for the papers he needs in order to find work, but the weather is never good enough. The audience realizes that Davies has no intention of taking the trip, of taking care of himself instead of taking advantage of others.

Davies only thinks of himself. When Aston reveals his history of mental illness, Davies is incapable of any sort of sympathy and taunts Aston with his past. He tries to play the brothers against one another, attempting to ingratiate himself with Mick by criticizing Aston. Finally, Aston tires of Davies's criticism, complaints, and personal attacks, and tells the tramp to leave. Davies desperately begs Aston to reconsider, and the old man finally becomes a pitiable figure, having nowhere to go and no one to whom he can turn. This complicates audience reaction to Davies. He has been depicted as a cunning, deceitful, and ungrateful tramp, but finally becomes also a pathetic and poverty-stricken old man.

Mick
Mick, Aston's brother, is in his late twenties. He is the owner of the building that contains the room in which the play's action occurs. Mick identifies himself as a successful businessman, although whether he is truly successful and what he actually does for a living are not clear. Since Mick allows Aston to live in his house, it seems that in the wake of Aston's electroshock treatments, Mick has become a sort of caretaker for his brother.

Mick is a much more suspicious person than Aston, who is quick to take Davies into the house. Although Mick has to have heard the voices of Aston and Davies together as they came toward the room at the play's beginning, when he finds Davies alone after Aston leaves, Mick physically attacks the old man. Mick follows the physical attack with a verbal attack as he fires quick questions, the same questions over and over, at the frightened tramp. Later, when talking with Davies, Mick alternates between politeness and brutality. Knowing that Davies has no pertinent experience, Mick offers the old man a job as a caretaker, but he later grows angry and accuses Davies of trying to pass himself off as a skilled interior decorator.

Mick also alternates between criticizing and defending his brother. Mick's frequent changes in attitude make it difficult to ascertain his motivations, and his inconsistency seems to indicate that, at least part of the time, he is lying. His one moment of emotional truth comes when he smashes Aston's statue of Buddha against the gas stove.

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