Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 352
Voice 1, a man, younger than twenty-one years of age, who has recently moved to the city and away from his biological family. He has become part of a new family, the Withers, in which the relationships are based on heterosexual and homosexual needs and power plays. He recounts, through a series of monologues, the happenings in their house, which appears to be a brothel and from which only he is able to leave. These monologues are filled with so much ambiguity and so many lies and contradictory statements that it is impossible to verify any truth within the play. In attempting to break away from intense Oedipal relationships, he remains confused and torn about his own sexuality and identity.
Voice 2, the mother of voice 1. She still lives in a rural community. Feeling deserted and isolated, in the past as well as in the present, she associates herself with the symbols of an “indifferent fire,” winter, and eternal night. Her feelings for her son are equally contradictory, ranging from love with sexual undertones to hatred to a final giving up on him. She relinquishes her physical hold, but the psychological link that she has forged will tie her son to her emotionally in ways that neither of them ever will be able to accept. The core of this family unit will remain twisted and bitter.
Voice 3, the presumably dead father of voice 1. Alternately declaring himself not dead and then dead, he finally admits that he is ensconced in a “glassy grave” where the absolute silence is broken only by the frightening sound of a dog. He is one of the living dead; his actual demise registers no more on those around him than his life did. More than any of the other characters, he talks in a vacuum; no one pays any attention to him, and he is always the odd man out in the mother-son relationships. At the end of the play, he holds out the promise of special knowledge, but like many of the fathers created by the playwright in other works, he can never reveal his secret.
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