Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 800
Johnnie, the narrator, a writer. At the age of thirty, Johnnie finds himself trapped behind an adult “face” created by others. Realizing this when critics attack his first book, he regresses to adolescence, becoming embroiled against his will in the novel’s bizarre plot as though in a dream of immaturity. Abducted and returned to school by the pedantic Professor Pimko, he is powerless to convince anyone that he does not belong there or to assert a truly mature individuality. Passive and irresolute in general, Johnnie rarely articulates his feelings, acting furtively instead. Boarding at the home of the Youthfuls, for example, he falls in love with Zutka but wages a campaign of irrational behavior against her charms, finally bringing about a general brawl. In a world in which meaningful relationships are impossible, once Johnnie subverts the social forms that prevent genuine human contact, escape is his only recourse. At the novel’s end, he runs away from his uncle’s estate.
Professor T. Pimko
Professor T. Pimko, an educator. A ridiculous, bald little man in striped pants and tailcoats, he is so self-assured and overbearingly pedantic that he renders Johnnie helplessly boyish. He leads Johnnie off to school and later to the Youthfuls’ home. Pimko’s authority is shattered only after he is smitten by Zutka.
Pylaszczkiewicz (pee-LAHSH-kah-vihch), called Siphon, Johnnie’s schoolmate. Leader of the idealistic, purist faction at school, he engages in a duel of grimaces with Mientus. Victorious, he is then physically assaulted and his innocence violated through his ears, with fatal results.
Mientus, Johnnie’s schoolmate. Leader of the school faction denying youth’s innocence, he is the most innocent of all, though he spouts obscenities and engages in the duel with Siphon that freezes his face in an ugly grimace. Obsessed with a privileged boy’s notions of stable-lad purity, he runs off with Johnnie to the country, where his repeated attempts to fraternize with the servant Bert disrupt the social system.
Kopeida, Johnnie’s schoolmate and rival for Zutka. Extremely self-possessed, he stands aloof from the factional strife at school and resists Johnnie’s friendly approaches. Later, drawn to Zutka’s bedroom by a forged note, he loses his composure.
Zutka Youthful, Johnnie’s beloved. Sixteen years old, slim, and athletic, she is the model of the stylish modern schoolgirl, ignorant, insolent, and passionate for life. With her seductive thighs reducing all men to slavish adolescents, she glories in youth’s dominance, a tyranny Johnnie can ridicule and ruffle but not undermine.
Mrs. Mary Youthful
Mrs. Mary Youthful, Zutka’s mother. Cultivated, fat, and high-minded, she is involved in all the right causes and embraces all the right ideas. Wielding modernity in her eagerness to be a sister rather than a mother, she encourages Zutka’s youthfulness in the most mindless ways and despises Johnnie’s self-conscious posing.
Mr. Victor Youthful
Mr. Victor Youthful, an engineer and architect. Tanned, informal, and vacuous, he at first vies with his wife in spouting platitudes and urging his daughter to be modern. Johnnie’s odd behavior reduces him to a depraved, gibbering buffoon, but he sobers up when he catches Pimko and Kopeida in Zutka’s room.
Aunt Hurlecka (huhr-LEH-skah), Johnnie’s aunt. An oblivious woman of suffocating kindness, she constantly doles out sweets and reminiscences to keep everyone childish.
Uncle Edward, an estate owner. Tall, thin, and delicate, he is the epitome of the bored, pampered, and insensitive aristocrat who responds to others in terms of class. His own social position rests on the exploitation of indispensable servants he despises and fears, and his...
(The entire section contains 1150 words.)
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