Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 473
The Narrator, a young man down on his luck who writes articles and plays. He is paid so little for his work, however, that he is desperately hungry most of the time. He tells his story in the feverish state of mind that hunger produces. It is a story of his encounters in the town with girls, beggars, pawnbrokers, old friends, policemen, editors, potential employers. Sick with hunger, he is eventually turned out of his room and, finally and violently, out of the house itself. His story ends when he throws into his landlady’s face a crumpled envelope containing a half sovereign and a letter from a woman.
An Old Cripple
An Old Cripple, a penniless beggar to whom the narrator gives a halfpenny after he has pawned his waistcoat to get the money.
Two Women, who are strolling about the town. They take the narrator for a madman because he tells the younger one that she is losing her book, when the fact of the matter is that she carries no book with her. Later, the younger woman—now The Lady in Black—befriends the narrator because she is an adventuresome girl who is intrigued with the idea of odd experiences, including those madmen might provide for her.
A Company Manager
A Company Manager, an employer who refuses to give the narrator a job as a bookkeeper because he had carelessly dated his letter of application several years before he was born.
A Policeman, an officer who sends the narrator to the police barracks as a homeless man.
A Pawnbroker, a merchant who laughs at the narrator when he appears at the pawnshop to sell the buttons from his coat.
An Editor, a kindly gentleman who likes the narrator’s work but cannot accept his sketch. He offers the narrator money, certain that the narrator can repay the obligation with his writing, but the narrator refuses the advance.
A Young Clerk
A Young Clerk, a boy who gives the narrator change for a crown when he has given the boy only a florin with which to buy a candle. The narrator profits by the clerk’s mistake by renting a room in a hotel and buying two full meals.
A Landlady, a woman with a family who patiently waits for the narrator to pay his rent. She finally rents his room to a sailor but allows the narrator to sleep in the house. She throws him out of the house, however, when he protests the children’s cruel game of sticking straws into the nose of the paralyzed grandfather who lies in a bed before the fire.
A Beautiful Girl
A Beautiful Girl, dressed in silk, who appears to the narrator in a dream. She offers him erotic pleasure.