The Increased Difficulty of Concentration

by Vaclav Havel
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Last Updated on May 11, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 357

Dr. Eduard Huml

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Dr. Eduard Huml, a social scientist in his mid-forties working on a book about the nature of human happiness. At the same time, he is maintaining a reasonably successful marriage, keeping a mistress, unsuccessfully fighting a physical attraction to his secretary, and submitting to an exhaustive set of examinations from a team of investigative social scientists who have invaded his house and are using him as a model of individuality, measured against computerized norms.

Vlasta Huml

Vlasta Huml, his wife, domestic and supportive, a good cook, and eager to please her husband. She is trying to persuade Huml to end his long-standing affair and reveals that she craves the same attentions that he is showing his mistress, Renata.


Renata, Huml’s mistress, roughly thirty years old and “full of fun and games.” She is jealous of Huml’s wife and spends most of her time trying to persuade Huml to get a divorce.


Blanka, Huml’s young and attractive secretary. She takes dictation with blinding speed. She is not altogether innocent but is managing, so far, to fend off Huml’s advances.

Dr. Anna Balcar

Dr. Anna Balcar, a beautiful and intelligent social scientist, an interrogator for the team of social scientists invading Huml’s house. After maintaining a professional bearing for most of the play, she breaks down and cries, succumbing to Huml’s charms when he points out to her that her whole project is a pointless mistake.

Karel Krieble

Karel Krieble, a technician on the investigating team, in charge of operating and maintaining the proper temperature and atmospheric conditions for Puzuk, a computerlike machine that interprets Huml’s answers in the light of statistical social norms.

Emil Machal

Emil Machal, the surveyor for the investigating team, charged with gauging floors and doorways, measuring the moisture in the walls, and weighing the bedclothes. Slightly sinister and combative, he is a dangerous force on the team.

Mr. Beck

Mr. Beck, the titular head of the team, older than the others. His total participation consists of pacing back and forth, gruffly refusing all offers of refreshment, and vowing to go fishing “tomorrow.”

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