Mike Hogan, the last of three brothers at home; he is twenty years old. As the play opens, his only sister, Josie, helps him to leave home behind the back of their father, who has treated his sons like slaves, though he has not been able to treat Josie like one.
Josie Hogan, who is much older than Mike, a very tall, muscular woman who has cultivated the reputation of being blatantly immoral and sexually involved with many men, but who is in fact a virgin who has acted thus because her appearance humiliates her and makes her believe that she can never attract a man.
Phil Hogan, their father, a widower, alcoholic, and tenant farmer in Connecticut. He and Josie have frequent brawls that are partially pleasurable playacting. Because of her size, Josie always wins, as she does when he learns of Mike’s escape and is genuinely furious. He is secretly aware of the falsity of Josie’s reputation and tries, through a series of ruses, to bring her and Tyrone together.
T. Stedman Harder
T. Stedman Harder, a nearby estate owner who would like to buy the property, though actually Tyrone will buy it and keep the Hogans as tenants. Early in the play, Harder complains that Phil’s pigs come to his pond and mess things up; in a hilarious scene, Phil and Josie turn the tables on him and make him try (unsuccessfully) to make a dignified exit.
James (Jamie) Tyrone
James (Jamie) Tyrone, a friend of the Hogans, modeled on the playwright’s older brother. He has a traumatic memory of an event that actually happened to the real James. He and Josie care deeply for each other, though both have difficulty in expressing their feelings. They arrange a meeting at the farm that night, but Josie is devastated when Jamie does not appear. He finally does arrive, very drunk. He is an alcoholic, both in the play and in real life, but capable of behaving, and thinking, as either drunk or sober. He is perfectly aware that her playing the loose woman is false, and what he wants from her is simply a night of comfort as a means of escaping from the unbearable memory that dominates his life. Their talk shifts gradually from failure to communicate to deep communication. At one point, Josie, deeply in love with him, offers him her bed, but because his lifelong loose sexuality relates to his horrible memory, he is shocked and repelled. All he wants is to be close to her, to lie (as she offers) on her breast, to confess his memory, and to have a night of peace. She hears his confession: He had been in California with his mother, who died there, and accompanied her body back East—spending the whole time in his compartment on the train with a cheap blonde. With the story told, he does spend the night in peace, his head on her breast in the moonlight; this is probably the only night she will ever spend with a man. Her feelings are more of resignation to that fact than of comfort, though finally, when Jamie leaves at peace at the play’s end, she too is at peace.