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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 337

Eight characters appear onstage in The Intruder: the grandfather; the father, Paul; the uncle, Oliver; three daughters: Gertrude, Geneviève, and Ursula; the Sister of Mercy; and the maid-servant. In the home but offstage, there are also the Mother and the newborn infant. The family members gathered in the living room, concerned because the mother is not recovering from her recent delivery. While much discussion centers on their likely or possibly presence, the audience never learns if there is actually a physical intruder in the garden or house; the character may be a metaphor for illness or death.

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The grandfather, though elderly and blind, remains the supreme authority over the family. His intuition about the family’s problems is inferred by his obsession with the intruder. Other characters, including the father, suggest that his mental capabilities have declined, perhaps along with the blindness. He seems to have a stronger relationship with Ursula.

The father is consumed by anxiety over his wife and resentful of the baby. His status as head of the family is limited by his father’s dominance, and despite his respect for the patriarchal structure, he challenges the older man’s authority with accusations about his sanity.

The uncle, the father’s brother, is visiting from the city. Oliver serves as the voice of reason, such as advocating that they listen to the doctors. He also stirs up trouble in criticizing the grandfather and recommending that the family fire the maid-servant.

While the three daughters often act in consort, Ursula stands out for having more action, such as opening windows, and more dialogue, in speaking with the grandfather. Overall, they seem submissive to the male characters. The Sister of Charity, who appears onstage only at the end, takes care of the mother in her room. She enters to inform the family of the mother’s death.

The maid-servant, accused of making the noises heard or leaving the door open, staunchly defends herself. She has a strong character and stands up to the others’ accusations.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 716

The Grandfather

The Grandfather, who, like the prophets in the works of Homer and Sophocles, is blind but sees the truth more clearly than the younger people around him. He says exactly what he discerns. His persistent questions about who is in the garden and the sitting room or why the lamp burns less brightly and his accusations that his family is keeping important information from him show him to be, despite his frailty from living nearly eighty years, a seeker of truth on all levels—rational, emotional, and intuitive. The Father remembers that before he became blind he was as reasonable as the others and “never said anything extraordinary.” The Father blames Ursula, the eldest daughter, for encouraging The Grandfather too much by answering all of his questions.

The Father

The Father, who only once is called Paul by The Grandfather. He is worried about his sickly wife and wishes that his eldest sister, a nun who never arrives, would appear and end his anxious waiting. He is worn out from his wife’s childbirth and subsequent illness. At one point, he even blames the child for her difficulties, although his ever reasonable brother points out that it is not the little boy’s fault. He becomes irritated by his father-in-law’s questions and anxieties, sometimes suggesting to The Uncle that The Grandfather is insane. The Father represents the patriarchal voice of reason that has little time for emotions and intuitions. The fulfillment of The Grandfather’s premonitions reflects how limited The Father’s viewpoint really is.

The Uncle

The Uncle, who only once is called Oliver by The Grandfather. He appears to be an urban...

(The entire section contains 1053 words.)

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