(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In Closing Time, Heller focuses upon three major characters: Sammy Singer, Lew Rabinowitz, and John Yossarian, all of whom are alter egos of the author. In fact, in this highly autobiographical novel, Heller has Sammy Singer reminisce about Joey Heller, who lived in the apartment house across the street and shared his aspiration to be a writer.

Sammy represents Heller's gentle and nostalgic self. A Jew short of stature and fearful of getting beaten up, Sammy was raised in Coney Island. He then fought in World War II as a tail gunner; indeed, he was in Yossarian's bomber when Snowden died. After receiving a college education on the GI Bill, Sammy taught in Pennsylvania for two years before becoming an advertising copywriter in the promotion department of Time magazine. Heller depicts Sammy as a man who finds satisfaction in life through his friendship with Lew and his commitment to his family, although that family includes marriage to a divorced Protestant from the Midwest and adoption of her three children, one of whom is a suicidal schizophrenic and the other two of whom are at risk for neoplastic disorders. Deeply in love with his wife Glenda, Sammy finds his life dramatically altered when Glenda dies within a month of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Afterwards, life holds only simple pleasures of playing bridge, attending concerts, doing volunteer work for cancer relief, visiting friends, and finally taking a trip around the world.

In many respects Lew Rabinowitz is the opposite of his friend Sammy. A big man with a broad chest and a strong voice, Lew,...

(The entire section is 653 words.)