Last Updated on August 16, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 542
The elderly Captain Shotover is a retired ship's captain who modeled his home (later nicknamed Heartbreak House) on a ship. Refusing to acknowledge that his vision of life has become dated, the captain regards himself as forward-thinking. His excessive alcohol consumption, coupled with his misguided experiments with destructive technology, eventually culminate in the fatal climax of the play.
Ariadne Utterword, also called Addy, is Captain Shotover's middle-aged daughter. Addy embodies a stereotype of the British elite, including her obsession with horses. Lady Utterwood is married to Sir Hastings Utterword, a colonial official, who does not appear in the play. Her fundamentally practical personality is often concealed by her frivolous persona. In the events of the play, she returns home after two decades away, and her family fails to recognize her.
Hesione Hushabye, Captain Shotover's other daughter, is about two years older than her sister. Her husband is Hector Hushabye. Hesione, or Hessy, immerses herself in domestic life and the control she can exert over her home. Her belief in the importance of love contributes to her meddling in the relationship between Ellie and Mangan, which sparks some of the play's comedic intrigue.
Hector Hushabye, about ten years older than his wife, tries to escape the boredom of his comfortable life. His preference for adventure fantasies over mundane realities leads to his creation of an alternate identity, Marcus Darnley, and then prompts his infatuation with Ariadne. While his foolishness in turning on the lights of the house during a bombing might seem to indicate a suicidal tendency, the play's central irony is that the house escapes unscathed.
Ellie Dunn, the play's ingénue, is involved in two romances. While she is engaged to Boss Mangan, she has feelings for Marcus Darnley. Because she is young and new to Heartbreak House, her reactions to the unconventional environment help to highlight the household's eccentricities. When she becomes infatuated with the captain, Ellie breaks off her engagement but later detaches herself from the infirm, elderly man. However, by the end of the play, Ellie and Captain Shotover have been secretly married. The chaos and destruction of the air-raids, which stimulate her thirst for adventure, mark a symbolic end to her innocence.
Mazzini Dunn, Ellie's father, is Mangan's employee and, we later learn, was once cheated by Mangan. Formerly a passionate reformer, he often regrets his decision to align himself with capitalist notions, but he justifies his choices through his role as a parent and the associated responsibilities. However, these internal conflicts have not prevented him from supporting Mangan's engagement to his daughter.
Alfred or Boss Mangan is Ellie's much-older fiancé. The engagement becomes complicated by his new-found love for Hesione. Standing as a symbol of capitalist greed and deceit, Mangan flouts a prosperity that is finally revealed as nonexistent. Mangan is one of two men to die in the dynamite-filled cave.
Billy Dunn is a thief who breaks into Heartbreak House and compels the wealthy family to pay him by threatening to turn himself in. Secretly married to Nurse Guinness, Billy is the other man killed when the cave is bombed.
Nurse Guinness, the irreverent housekeeper, is Billy Dunn's wife, a fact she hides from her employers.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 865
Captain Shotover, the master of Heartbreak House. This eighty-eight-year-old eccentric retired sea captain is constantly cranky, impressively wise (a visionary), and generally drunk (three bottles...
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