Characters Discussed

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Charlie Tynan

Charlie Tynan, a London playwright. Charlie is Da’s foster child. At the age of forty-two, he has returned to Ireland to bury his deceased father. He is a troubled man who is unable to exorcise Da’s presence from his memory. Charlie’s earlier abjuration of Da’s rustic sensibility is a source of shame for him, as is his perception of his father as boorish and obstinate. His father’s posthumous visitations to Charlie’s mind are reflections of Charlie’s fixation on Da and the remarkable impressions he left on Charlie throughout their embattled relationship.

Nick Tynan

Nick Tynan, called Da, a longtime gardener for the Prynne family. Da is eighty-three years old at his death but appears in the play at various ages from his fifties to the time of his death. Da is a cantankerous man, even when younger, yet he is proud of his fifty-eight years of diligent service as a gardener for the Prynne family. Although he is contrary to people like Drumm, his insistence on haunting Charlie is a reflection of his forceful personality and dominant role in shaping Charlie’s life.

Margaret (Mag) Tynan

Margaret (Mag) Tynan, often called Mother, Da’s wife and Charlie’s mother. She is in her late seventies at her reported death, but the play presents her during her late fifties. Mag is devoted to both Da and Charlie and exhibits pride in her rearing of Charlie after his natural mother abandoned him. Her one act of defiance is to accept an invitation to tea from an old friend and thus to alienate Da.

Mr. Drumm

Mr. Drumm, a clerk. He is a priggish, arrogant man in his mid-fifties in one flashback, in which Charlie remembers his first job, when he was seventeen. He is a bookish man who appreciates Charlie’s literary interests but strongly dislikes Da’s antagonistic, perverse treatment of him when he first arrives to hire Charlie. He admonishes Charlie about embracing any of life’s opportunities. He returns to Charlie’s house after Da’s funeral and admits his own shortcomings.

Young Charlie

Young Charlie, Charlie as a seventeen-year-old. He is slightly naïve and seeks to break away from his parents’ influence, especially that of Da. He is excited about his employment at Drumm’s clerical office and somewhat cynical about the elder Charlie when the two exchange words. The elder Charlie must often put his younger incarnation in his place.


Oliver, Charlie’s childhood friend. Oliver is in his early forties and appears at the house after Da’s funeral. His childish perspective on life belies his strictly mercenary interest in the now-empty house and his hopes to acquire it. He also appears later in the play, during a flashback of Charlie’s departure for London.

Mary Tate

Mary Tate, a twenty-five-year-old woman from Charlie’s past. Mary appears once in the play and is notable for her effects on Charlie’s libido. Described as the “Yellow Peril” by Charlie, Mary is an aloof, lonely young woman who teases Charlie when he flirts with her. Her mysterious reputation as a bad girl is quickly stripped from her by Da when he meets her and Charlie on a park bench. Da reveals that she is really a young girl from Glasthule whose father abandoned her and her family. Her identity restored, she no longer is the conquest Charlie had hoped for.

Mrs. Prynne

Mrs. Prynne, the daughter of Jacob Prynne, owner of the garden that Da has tended for more than fifty-eight years. She is fifty years old and apparently prim. Although she is kind in her words to Da, her pension contribution to Da of twenty-six pounds per...

(This entire section contains 666 words.)

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year is viewed as miserly by young Charlie. Unaware of the slight she has given Da, she exacerbates it further by giving Da a mounted set of fused spectacles from the great fire of the San Francisco earthquake—one of her father’s keepsakes.


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DaSee Nick Tynan

Charlie's adoptive mother appears in his memory scenes with his father. In one memory, she tells Drumm that Charlie was adopted, that his birth mother attempted to abort him, and that she herself took him home from the hospital and kept him. In another memory, Da lunges at Mother with his fist but stops himself just before striking her. Charlie later learns that Mother married Da only because her own father wanted her to, although she was in love with someone else. Charlie's mother dies several years before his father.

Oliver is Charlie's childhood friend. In act 1, Oliver, in his early forties, stops by to see Charlie after Da's funeral. In a flashback to Charlie's teen years, Oliver is with him just before he attempts to seduce Mary Tate. When Charlie is preparing to leave his parents' home and fly to Belgium for his wedding to Peggy, Oliver accompanies him to the airport.

Mrs. Prynn
Da works as a gardener for Mrs. Prynn's family over a span of fifty-four years. Just before she and Mr. Prynn sell their house and move to London, she gives Da twenty-five pounds as a pension for all his years of work. She also gives him a piece of junk art that her grandfather found in the street. Charlie is disdainful of his father for being so subservient to Mrs. Prynn.

Mary Tate
Mary Tate is twenty-five and ‘‘a loner.’’ As a young man, Charlie makes a pass at Mary Tate, who has a reputation for having sex with any man who asks her to. However, just after Charlie has made a pass at her, Da walks up and begins talking with her. Da knows Mary's family and, as he talks to her, reveals that her father has abandoned her mother, brothers, and sisters. Upon hearing this, Charlie sees Mary as a real person with feelings and can't bring himself to continue seducing her.

Charlie Patrick Tynan
Charlie is the main character of Da. As the play opens, he is in his forties, a successful writer, married, and living in London with his wife and children. He has just returned from Da's funeral to the house in which he grew up and is sorting through his father's things. As he does so, Da appears to him in the form of a ghost. In a series of memory scenes, Charlie recalls key incidents in his relationship with Da throughout his childhood, teen years, and adulthood. As a boy, Charlie adores his father, but by the time he is a teenager, he feels ashamed of Da's ignorance and crude language and disdainful of his subservience toward his employers. As the play ends, Charlie leaves the house to return home to London, attempting to lock the ghost of his father inside. But as soon as the door is locked, Charlie turns around to see that his Da's ghost is already outside. As Charlie walks away, Da follows behind him, singing an old song. Symbolically, Charlie must accept that the memory of his father will follow him throughout his life and cannot be locked away in the past.

Maggie TynanSee Mother

Nick Tynan
Nick Tynan is Charlie's adoptive father, whom he calls Da (as in ‘‘Dad’’). As the play opens, Charlie has just returned from Da's funeral when Da appears in the form of a ghost. Through a series of memories, Charlie recalls key incidents in his relationship with Da throughout his life. Da works as a gardener for a wealthy family from the age of fourteen to sixty-eight, at the end of which the family provides him with a measly pension of only twenty-five pounds and an old piece of junk art. At the end of the play, the ghost of Da follows Charlie out of the house, singing an old song as he goes. Da is essentially a play about Charlie's need to grapple with his relationship with Da, whom he both loved and hated.

Young CharlieSee Charlie Patrick Tynan




Critical Essays