The Young Man
The Young Man, a tenant in the Lustys’ house, a poet and a dreamer. Although his true name is never revealed, the Young Man is called both “Jack” and “Fred” by the Landlady, the former because he reminds her of the infant son she lost and the latter because he brings to mind a lover she once had. The Young Man spends copious amounts of time either lying on his bed staring at the ceiling or with his ear pressed against the door of the room across the hall, waiting to commune with the Girl, who inhabits the room. He is penniless and, despite his pretensions to a literary life, he has written only one poem, which he later discards. Instead, he talks a considerable amount about life and art, using sophisticated vocabulary, until he meets his silent, taciturn Landlord, who jolts the Young Man out of his stagnation with simple, profound truths. The Landlord dies, however, before the Young Man can question him. The Young Man takes on the responsibility for notifying the Lustys’ relatives and inviting them to the funeral. When the Landlady attempts to seduce him, the Young Man cruelly spurns her advances in favor of listening to the musings of the ever-unseen, wraithlike Girl. Finally, with the Girl’s help, he reconciles the needs of both body and soul and leaves the house in search of wholeness.
The Landlady, Alma Lusty, a blowsy, overripe woman tending to slovenliness. She is a gregarious creature who particularly craves the attention of men. It comes as something of a surprise that she has been married to the grim, stonelike Landlord for almost twenty years. She delights in material comforts and still mourns the death of her son, Jack, in his infancy. Alma feels some guilt for an affair she once had, which may or...
(The entire section is 736 words.)