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.)