A Voice, seemingly speaking in a dark room, unidentified, addressing the Hearer about his past life and present situation. The Voice seems to move about in the unlit space, sometimes far off, sometimes very close to the Hearer; the Voice is tonally flat on all occasions. Sometimes there are long periods in which the Voice is silent. When it is heard, it is always very soft.
The Hearer, as he is called, who is unidentified by name (although he is given a name, only to have it immediately taken away). He is clearly a male and is lying on his back in the dark. He is a very old man, immobile save for the opening and closing of his eyes. The anecdotes of his childhood indicate that he was born and brought up in Ireland. He does not speak, and it is made clear that he has never been very active intellectually. At first, he is not sure if the Voice is really speaking to him. It seems that he has been in the darkened space for a very long time before the Voice begins to speak. The Voice provides some company for him, and the third-person narrator allows the reader to know how he reacts to the Voice.
The Narrator, called the cankerous other and sometimes the Deviser, who is able to record the words spoken by the Voice and to enter the mind of the Hearer to reveal how the Hearer responds to what is being said about him. The technical device of third-party narration is given character of a kind. The Narrator is described as the Deviser devising the Voice and the Hearer to keep himself company. There is a vague suggestion that he is really telling a tale of his own life. He possesses a talent for telling witty and sometimes heartfelt anecdotes.
The Commentator, the voice behind it all, who claims to have invented the narrative voice, the Voice, and the Hearer. He provides a running critical commentary on the story, breaching the credibility of the tale and continually considering other ways of telling it and of changing the nature of the characters, physically and in terms of character and action. The box-within-a-box of normal third-party narration is opened up in this way to critical comment and to the possibility that there may be another writer, perhaps the real writer, behind this voice.
The Hearer’s father
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