Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 412

Winnie

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Winnie, a woman described in the play as “well preserved” and “plump,” with a “big bosom.” She is about fifty years of age. In the first act, she is buried up to her waist in earth. By the opening of the second act, she has been sucked, or sunk, downward so that only her head is visible. Winnie can best be characterized by her abundant optimism, which lies in sharp contrast to her desolate situation. Such an attitude to life is both courageous, because Winnie keeps her spirits high, and tragic, in that she is in an impossible situation. Consistent with her desire to appear cheerful, Winnie takes great pride in her personal possessions. Each one is endowed with a special meaning, even Brownie, the revolver she keeps in her bag. Winnie delights in seemingly banal conversation that helps her through the day, from the bell that wakes her to the bell for sleep. Following in a set pattern, almost like a ritual, Winnie cleans her teeth and glasses, applies lipstick, brushes and combs her hair, perhaps trims her nails if necessary, and then talks to her husband, Willie, who is beside her. Consequently, Winnie’s language is vital as she clings to her words and memories, which, especially in the second act, are almost the only things left for her. Despite Winnie’s attempts at remaining optimistic, many of the quotations that occur throughout her long monologue betray sadness and regret. This is most apparent in her singing of the Waltz Duet from Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow.

Willie

Willie, Winnie’s husband. Willie remains hidden for the majority of the play, with only his bald head visible behind the slope. Unlike his wife, Willie is mobile. At the end of the second act, he appears on all fours to crawl up the mound toward Winnie. This appearance shows Willie “dressed to kill” in top hat, morning coat, and striped trousers, holding white gloves in his hand. He climbs a little way toward his wife but, unable to sustain the effort of looking up at her, he drops his head to the ground. Slowly, Willie climbs to the summit of the hill. With a hoarse cry to his wife (“Win”), he gazes at her, with an outstretched arm. It is not clear why Willie makes this effort. It may be to embrace Winnie for a last time, or it may be to kill her, himself, or both of them.

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