Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 589
Green Eyes, a handsome, twenty-two-year-old, condemned murderer. He is the leader of the cell and revered in the prison for his insidious crime of seducing a girl and then strangling her during sex. His chief rival is a black murderer named Snowball, whom he has secretly befriended and actually admires. Whereas the prisoner Lefranc lauds a black criminal, Snowball, as the god of the prison, Maurice, another cellmate, worships Green Eyes. This creates endless contention between Maurice and Lefranc; twice Green Eyes is forced to pull Lefranc from Maurice’s throat. Being illiterate, Green Eyes needs Lefranc’s help in corresponding with his girlfriend on the outside, even though Green Eyes accuses Lefranc of trying to steal her. Green Eyes is at first obsessed with his girlfriend, as evidenced by her face being tattooed on his chest. Realizing that he probably will be executed in two months, he instructs his companions to kill her when they are released from prison. When the guard comes to inform Green Eyes that his girlfriend has arrived for a visit, he refuses to see her. Instead, he gives the guard permission to make a play for her. The third time Lefranc lunges at Maurice, Green Eyes passively stands by to watch the slaughter. Although he does nothing to stop it, he is repulsed by Lefranc’s willful murder of Maurice and calls for the guard.
Georgie Lefranc, an insolent twenty-three-year-old convict who is about to be released. He does not have the status of a hard-core killer; his crime is only burglary. Lefranc is envious of Green Eyes’ popularity and position but finds a condemned black murderer more worthy of his praise. He bickers incessantly with Maurice, whom he has tried to pulverize a number of times, each time being stopped by Green Eyes. Lefranc is Green Eyes’ link to his girlfriend: Green Eyes is illiterate and must rely on Lefranc to write all of his letters. Lefranc is coerced by Maurice into an admission of trying to steal Green Eyes’ girl. In retaliation, Lefranc taunts Maurice about his homosexual infatuation with Green Eyes. Although Lefranc’s jail term is due to expire in three days, he foils his release by strangling Maurice in a fit of rage. He does not acquire the respect for this murder that he assumed he would. Green Eyes is repulsed that Lefranc chose his crime instead of allowing the crime to choose him, as Green Eyes claims was true of his murder.
Maurice, an effeminate seventeen-year-old crook. He worships Green Eyes and despises Lefranc because the latter will not recognize Green Eyes as the head of the prison. His constant needling of Lefranc prompts Lefranc to attack Maurice; twice he is saved by Green Eyes’ intervention. Maurice feels the distrust that Green Eyes has of Lefranc, especially in regard to his girlfriend. When Maurice learns of Green Eyes’ secret friendship with Snowball, he is heartbroken. He still loves Green Eyes but in a different way. He even speaks of pitying his hero. His relentless taunting of Lefranc brings on a third attack, and this time Green Eyes allows him to be strangled to death.
The guard, a stern but conscientious and fair prison guard. He dislikes Lefranc for his impertinence and threatens to throw him back into the guardhouse. He is friendly with Green Eyes, even delivering a warm message and cigarettes from Snowball. He is grateful when Green Eyes gives him permission to have a chance at his girl.
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