Characters Discussed

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Bèrenger, an average, middle-aged citizen. Usually dressed in a gray overcoat, hat, and scarf, Bèrenger is a Chaplinesque figure, muffled to reality. He yearns to live in the Radiant City. When he learns that all of its residents wish to leave because of an unknown killer, he pluckily vows to pursue him. At the end, however, Bèrenger submits to the killer because of the “vacuity of his commonplace morality, which collapses like a leaking balloon.”

The Architect

The Architect, the designer of the Radiant City, also police superintendent of the district and occasionally a medical practitioner. A harried civil servant who administers his departments from a pocket telephone and carries a large briefcase (symbolizing, like the other briefcases in the play, their owners’ share in the evil they do not oppose), the Architect is of “ageless, bureaucratic age.” He warns Mademoiselle Dany of the dangers of leaving the civil service yet is blasé about the continuing deaths.

Mademoiselle Dany

Mademoiselle Dany, the Architect’s secretary. Dany is young, blond, and beautiful. She wishes to be free of her civil service job, but after she resigns, her drowned body is found in the ornamental pool.


Edouard, Bèrenger’s friend. Thin, pale, nervous, and dressed in mourning, thirty-five-year-old Edouard coughs throughout the play and is visibly ill. His right arm is slightly withered and is visibly shorter than his left. Although Edouard’s spilled briefcase reveals his association with the killer, Bèrenger fails to make this recognition.

Mother Peep

Mother Peep, a female demagogue and keeper of geese. A fat woman resembling Bèrenger’s concierge, she is a satiric figure of a Fascist leader, speaking doubletalk, marching her geese in the goose step, and destroying all opposition.


Man, the lone member of the crowd who speaks for reason and the rehabilitation of the hero. Dead drunk, but in top hat and tails, the Man challenges Mother Peep and her geese and is “liquidated.”

The Killer

The Killer, a one-eyed dwarf who chuckles and shrugs throughout Bèrenger’s final monologue. Finally, he pulls a knife and, raising it, advances chuckling toward the kneeling Bèrenger as the play ends.

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Critical Essays