The Man with the Golden Arm Characters

Nelson Algren

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Francis Majcinek

Francis Majcinek (mi-CHEE-nehk), a card dealer known to everyone in his westside Chicago neighborhood as Frankie Machine. Twenty-nine years old, with shaggy blond hair, buffalo eyes, and a square face, Frankie has such a steady, machinelike talent for dealing cards that he can boast that he has the touch; he is the man with the golden arm. Frankie also uses his arm for shooting up morphine, a habit he developed during World War II to relieve the pain of shrapnel lodged in his liver. Honorably discharged from the Army with a Purple Heart and a Good Conduct Medal, Frankie hopes to find a job as a jazz drummer. His addiction to drugs, his unhappy marriage, and his tendency toward criminal activities (for example, he gets caught trying to steal electric irons from a department store and serves nine months in jail) prevent him from realizing his ambitions. In a moment of anger and desperation, he kills Louie Fomorowski. As the police close in on him, Frankie hangs himself in a lonely hotel room.

Sophie “Zosh” Majcinek

Sophie “Zosh” Majcinek, Frankie’s wife. She is twenty-six years old, with pale eyes and ash-blonde hair in pin curls, unhappily confined to a wheelchair as the result of an automobile accident that occurred while Frankie was driving while intoxicated. Zosh and Frankie have known each other since childhood but have never really trusted each other. They quarreled before they were married, they quarreled on their wedding night, and they have quarreled ever since, excepting the thirty-six months when Frankie was in the Army. Once a sharp dresser and a fine dancer, Zosh now sits home all day, complaining and asking...

(The entire section is 705 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The key to Algren's characterization lies in his oft-repeated lines from Whitman which call for the author to identify with his characters...

(The entire section is 480 words.)