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 of rum a day). Although a realist, Shotover has built his Sussex home in the form of a ship, strives to attain the seventh degree of concentration (perfect tranquillity), and spends much of his time experimenting with death-dealing inventions, especially dynamite. Shotover is a remnant of the culture and leisure that flourished in Europe, particularly England, before World War I.
Lady Ariadne (Addy) Utterword
Lady Ariadne (Addy) Utterword, Captain Shotover’s younger daughter, age forty-two. The wife of Sir Hastings Utterword, she is a handsome blonde who, although seemingly scatterbrained, is quite competent. On her return to Heartbreak House after an absence of twenty-three years, neither her father nor her sister recognizes her. As an alternative to the confusion she finds, Lady Utterword exudes a conservative prestige (implying the British Empire’s element of foreign rule) and is concerned only with horses and hunting.
Mrs. Hesione (Hessy) Hushabye
Mrs. Hesione (Hessy) Hushabye, the captain’s elder daughter, perhaps forty-four years old, the wife of Hector Hushabye. Dark and statuesque, Hesione is the epitome of domesticity, an exemplar of the power of a woman’s love and the authority in her home. She invites young Ellie Dunn to visit Heartbreak House so that she can discourage the ingenue from marrying Boss Mangan. At the end of the play, she is much less the paragon of domestic virtue, as boredom provokes her to anticipate and exult in the excitement and destruction.
Hector Hushabye, Hesione’s husband, a dandy in his fifties. He is heroic but shy. A man capable of brave deeds, Hector, now tamed (domesticated) by his wife, refrains from action and resorts to concocting tales of high adventure. He reasons that people need to hear such stories so as still to believe in heroes. In the end, it is he who defiantly turns on the lights in the house.
Ellie Dunn, a pretty, young singer betrothed to Boss Mangan but secretly in love with Marcus Darnley, a mysterious older gentleman later revealed to be Hector Hushabye. This ingenue finds the atmosphere at Heartbreak House puzzling, for she notes that guests are not greeted, the elderly servant addresses everyone as “love” or “ducky,” relatives are treated as strangers, and strangers are welcomed as if they are old friends. Incredibly naïve, Ellie is fooled by Hector Hushabye’s amorous antics and deluded by Boss Mangan’s apparent wealth. Ellie first sees Captain Shotover as unpredictable, later as very wise, and finally as a drunkard. Disillusionments destroy her romantic bent. Coupled with a newly acquired knowledge of her power over men, these disillusionments convert her into a “modern” girl. Finally, unable to discover alternate values, something “real” to respect, Ellie gratefully embraces the impending destruction and doom.
Mazzini Dunn, Ellie’s father. A rather elderly, earnest man, Dunn asserts the philosophy of a nineteenth century liberal; he believes in progress but is not a moving force to be reckoned with as a result of his sentimentalism. He is now a tool of the capitalistic Boss Mangan and, as such, has promised his only child, the pretty young Ellie, to this elderly industrialist. Poverty-stricken and a little pathetic, Dunn remains the ineffectual “good” man.
Alfred “Boss” Mangan
Alfred “Boss” Mangan, the fifty-five-year-old, apparently rich mogul whom the unsuspecting young Ellie is engaged to marry. Jaded, suspicious, pedestrian, manipulating, and deceitful, he is the overbearing boss of Ellie’s subjugated father and the cast of capitalistic exploitation. He is exposed to have none of the millions of dollars to which he constantly alludes; the monies actually belong to others. He is killed while hiding in the cave containing the captain’s dynamite.
Billy Dunn, who is not related to Ellie or Mazzini. He was once a pirate and is now a burglar. He is captured when he attempts to rob Heartbreak House. Billy had stolen from the captain many years earlier and is afraid of him. Although he insists on being turned over to the law, Billy finds himself a servant in the household, put to this by his captors. Consistently paralleled with the Boss by deeds and by intentions, Billy dies in the cave with Mangan.
Randall Utterword, the brother-in-law of Ariadne and younger brother of Sir Hastings Utterword (who is referred to in the play but never appears). This Utterword is a gentleman, both in looks and in manner; he is callow and without talents, yet a tower of pride. He is a snob, sustaining a high regard for caste. He fancies himself to be in love with his sister-in-law.
Nurse Guiness, Captain Shotover’s elderly servant, secretly married to the thief Billy Dunn. She is casual and impudent in her station, always calling the gentry “ducky.”
Sir Hastings Utterword
Sir Hastings Utterword, Ariadne’s husband, referred to but never on stage. A governor of colonies, he craves the routine, especially administrative duties. He encourages his wife’s flirtations because these keep her occupied and in good humor.