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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 843

Mr. Bodwell Bodwell is the Thurber family’s neighbor, a retired engineer. He is ‘‘subject to mild ‘attacks,’’’ like most people whom the family knows. When the narrator’s mother throws a shoe through the Bodwells’ window and shouts to them that there are burglars in the house, Bodwell is momentarily confused,...

(The entire section contains 843 words.)

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Mr. Bodwell
Bodwell is the Thurber family’s neighbor, a retired engineer. He is ‘‘subject to mild ‘attacks,’’’ like most people whom the family knows. When the narrator’s mother throws a shoe through the Bodwells’ window and shouts to them that there are burglars in the house, Bodwell is momentarily confused, thinking that the burglars are in his house, before calming himself and calling the police.

Mrs. Bodwell
Mrs. Bodwell lives, with her husband, next door to the Thurbers. When a shoe comes through their window, before the Bodwells have a chance to realize that the narrator’s mother threw it to get their attention, Mrs. Bodwell is heard shouting, ‘‘We’ll sell the house and go back to Peoria.’’

Joe
The only policeman referred to by name, Joe does nothing that distinguishes him from the others. He examines an old zither with another policeman, and he is the one to say something when they hear the grandfather making noise in the attic. When the policeman who has been shot talks bravely about going to retrieve his gun from the grandfather, Joe mocks him and reminds him of the danger of approaching an armed and unstable suspect, which makes him change his mind.

Reporter
Near the end of the story, a newspaper reporter shows up and asks the narrator, ‘‘Just what the hell is the real lowdown here, Bud?’’ Told that the problem with the house is that it has ghosts, he just stares for a long time and then walks away.

Grandfather Thurber
The narrator’s grandfather is a veteran of the Union army of the Civil War, which ended fifty-two years earlier. His bedroom is in the attic. When the police come to the house to search for an intruder, the grandfather thinks that they are soldiers who are deserting because they are losing to the South. He calls them ‘‘cowardly dogs’’ and ‘‘lily-livered cattle’’ and then reaches for a policeman’s holster and shoots a man with his own gun. The police retreat, afraid of the crazy old man, but at the breakfast table the next morning, Grandfather seems perfectly aware of the previous night’s situation, asking why so many police had been ‘‘tarryhootin’’ around the house.

Herman Thurber
Herman is the brother of the narrator. He generally sleeps uneasily, always fearful that something might come and ‘‘get him’’ in the night. When the narrator comes to wake him, Herman hears the sounds in the dining room, which drives him to run back into his room and slam the door.

James Thurber
The narrator presents himself as acting reasonably, although his actions are unusual enough to raise the suspicions of the policemen. He is the first person in the household to hear the unidentified sound, as he is stepping out of the bathtub at 1:15 in the morning. After waking his brother Herman, he is the one who decides that the cause of the sound downstairs must be a ghost. When his excitable mother decides that the sounds must be caused by burglars, the narrator stays with her, thinking that she is beyond reason. He is still wrapped in a towel from his bath when the police arrive and only puts on pants when they point out his nakedness; later, when the reporter comes around asking questions, the narrator puts on one of his mother’s blouses, explaining that it is the only thing that he can find. He decides to be honest with the reporter and tell him that the problem was caused by ghosts, but the reporter does not take him seriously. Later, when the policeman who has been shot by Grandfather wants to confront him and take his gun back, the narrator intervenes with calm sensibility and volunteers to take the gun over to the police station in the morning.

Mother Thurber
The narrator’s mother is a highly excitable woman, scatterbrained in some regards yet practical when she needs to be. Hearing a sound in her house and suspecting that it is a burglar, she thinks of the clever plan of alerting a neighbor by throwing a shoe through his closed window. After he has gone to phone the police, however, she considers throwing the matching shoe, ‘‘because the thrill of heaving a shoe through a window glass had enormously taken her fancy.’’ She is surprised to hear that Grandfather has shot a policeman, not because of the daring violence of the act, but because ‘‘He was such a nice-looking young man.’’

‘‘Zither’’
One of the policemen who search through the house finds an old zither and strums it in curiosity. The story later refers to this officer as ‘‘Zither,’’ as well as ‘‘the zither-cop.’’ When this officer goes to the attic to see what the noise up there is, Grandfather pushes him back and then shoots him with his own gun. Wounded in the shoulder, the zither-cop is upset, but he is logical enough to leave his gun with the angered grandfather so that the narrator can retrieve it for him the next day.

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