The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Bruno Bicek, Algren’s tragic protagonist in Never Come Morning, stands alone, differentiated from the other members of his gang by his sensitivity and humanity. In an environment that places a premium on mere survival, Bruno’s “flaws” mark him as “soft.”

His “softness” results in Steffi’s rape and subsequent prostitution, for she cannot return to her Old World mother and values. Like Bruno, however, she retains her humanity and her capacity for love and forgiveness, but Algren has taken care not to present her as the idealized virgin: Lazy and selfish, she permits Bruno’s seduction because she senses that he is the best of the available males. Algren’s portrait of her, like his characterization of Bruno, is complex. In this adolescent love story, readers do not encounter the star-crossed lovers of West Side Story (1961); they find young people with potential whose growth is irremediably stunted by their environment. They have few choices, and the few they have do not involve escape.

The impossibility of Bruno’s escape is foreshadowed by the fate of Casey, who is a bit older but whose life closely parallels his. Casey, like Bruno, is a boxer, but he is a loser, a hanger-on, a tool of Bonifacy; his position is reflected in his appearance at the barber’s back door, where he is reduced to asking for “advances” which are really handouts.

While Casey is a foil to Bruno, Fireball and Tiger...

(The entire section is 485 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Bruno “Lefty” Bicek

Bruno “Lefty” Bicek (BI-sehk), a seventeen-year-old hoodlum in a Polish neighborhood in Chicago. Proficient at baseball and boxing, Bruno is blond and athletically built, with a large body and long arms. He lusts for tobacco, women, food, and public triumph but is also haunted by guilt. He dreams of becoming a professional boxer, even as he steals a slot machine and leads his neighborhood gang, the Warriors, to reorganize as the “Baldheads.” Bruno’s intentions are often good: He repeatedly promises to himself that he will make up for injustices to his girlfriend, Steffi Rostenkowski. With his peers, however, Bruno lets the code of gang loyalty and his desire to conform prevent him from asserting himself when gang members follow him and Steffi to their alley hideaway and rape her. As Steffi is demoralized by gang rape, Bruno seethes inwardly until a Greek outsider attempts to get in line; with one kick of a metal-tipped shoe, Bruno breaks the Greek’s neck. Although he successfully escapes from the scene, Bruno is later picked up by the police and questioned about a shooting for which he is not guilty; he takes the blame out of gang loyalty. In jail, Bruno reads boxing magazines and struggles with his conscience, which tells him that he is guilty of killing Steffi, even though she is alive and as well as any woman can be after what she has suffered. After his release from jail, Bruno dreams of fighting the former state light heavyweight champion while he struts outside Mama Tomek’s house of prostitution, where Steffi now lives, soliciting customers. He finally gets his boxing match and hangs on through sheer determination, even with a broken hand, to defeat his opponent. Afterward, he is met by the police and arrested, as a result of...

(The entire section is 744 words.)