Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 759
David (Davy) Levy
David (Davy) Levy, the twenty-two-year-old son of Sam and Bessie Levy, his Jewish parents. He is tall and intelligent, but he has no regular job, and his great ambitions are to be a crooner and to “make people happy.” His intelligence is undirected, and his musical ability is unlikely to make him popular. He appears dissatisfied, melancholy, and quixotic. He rejects not only his father’s plans for him but also Hava’s love. He wants to shock the older generation; for example, he appears in a teddy boy outfit at his father’s funeral as a mark of protest. Parallels to William Shakespeare’s Hamlet appear both in his character and in his desire to avenge his father’s death. He becomes quite unbalanced in his behavior at the Kaddish and also later, when his mother talks of remarrying. Like Hamlet, he does not really achieve anything by revenge, but unlike Hamlet, he drops his quest for revenge. The play ends with his declaring his love to Hava and accepting his mother’s remarriage, to Solly Segal, as revenge enough.
Sam Levy, a Jewish pickled-herring seller in the East End of London. He is sixty-five years old and appears to be a hypochondriac. He suffers a heart attack at the end of act 1 and dies. For the rest of the play, he appears as a ghost visible only to David. He is portrayed as very confused in his values and, especially, in what he wants for David. At times, he upbraids David for not settling down, yet sometimes he urges David to find himself. Sam believes that his own confined life and less than happy marriage contributed to his death. As a ghost, he not only contributes to David’s bizarre behavior but also breaks up the séance organized by his wife by indicating that he is happy for her to marry Solly. In the end, he realizes that David’s desire for revenge has gotten out of hand and substitutes an aphrodisiac for the poison David plans to use. He thus brings about a happy resolution.
Bessie Levy, the fifty-two-year-old wife and widow of Sam. A plump woman fond of wearing cheap jewelry, she is much younger than her husband and still attractive. She has no strong character of her own and appears more as the object of David’s and Sam’s conflicting emotions. She has little sympathy for Sam’s hypochondria but nevertheless seems to have been a loyal wife and caring mother, though she seems ready enough to marry Solly after only eight months of widowhood. She takes life as it comes.
Solly Segal, a Jewish friend of the Levy family. At sixty years of age, he is retired and a widower. He is very much a pragmatist, as is his equivalent in Shakespeare’s play, Claudius, and he has little patience for either David’s or Sam’s inner conflicts and uncertainties. He seems a natural partner for Bessie: Both are uncomplicated people who refuse to see life as a tragedy. It is his courting of Bessie so soon after Sam’s death that triggers David’s bizarre behavior. He tries to dissuade his daughter, Hava, from being interested in David.
Hava Segal, an eighteen-year-old who is “beautiful and sure of herself.” She makes a strong initial impact, having just returned from an Israeli kibbutz, but she is not a rebel like David. In fact, she went to Israel to try to forget David, her childhood sweetheart, but in vain. She is, at heart, a homey girl, which is perhaps why David rejects her at first. At the end, however, he comes to his senses, and her quiet persistence is rewarded in the burst of celebratory love that concludes the play.
Mr. Stone and
Mrs. Stone, both in their fifties and both described as fat, foolish, and jovial. They are childless and neighbors to the Levys. He is a taxi driver. Their world is completely trivial. hey represent the mundaneness of life that the playwright sees as part of the reality that needs to be celebrated.
Mr. Black, and
Mr. Green, three salesmen who appear at the funeral, the first two to sell tombstones, the last to discuss life insurance. By the last act, they have switched jobs. They spend much of their time playing cards, oblivious to both the comedy and the tragedy that goes on around them.
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