Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 357
The main characters of the novella, Pastoralia, are the unnamed protagonist and Janet, both of whom are workers at a caveman exhibit at an amusement park.
The protagonist is a diligent worker who is dedicated to his role as a caveman despite receiving any actual fulfillment in his work. He seems to simply accept the oppression by the company, even when they stop sending his and Janet's daily meal of a goat that they are to roast. The protagonist experiences an internal struggle throughout the story as he contemplates reporting Janet for her refusal to constantly be in character and fulfill the ridiculous expectations of the company. He eventually reports Janet, which results in her being fired and him receiving a small reward of food, drink, and a company acknowledgement of his "honesty."
Janet plays the cavewoman at the exhibit, and she is far more disillusioned with her job and refuses to simply play her role without expressing her frustrations. Janet is much more vocal about the poor practices of the company that she works for, and she is also much less enthusiastic about being expected to stay in character all day long, particularly because attendance to their exhibit is rapidly declining. Janet is eventually fired after the unnamed protagonist chooses to report her for arguing with a visitor to the exhibit.
Greg Nordstrom is the supervisor who pressures the protagonist to report Janet. Nordstrom uses manipulative tactics to pressure the protagonist and frames reporting Janet as simply being honest, rather than causing someone to lose her only source of income. Nordstrom is a typical supervisor, who readily disposes of employees and has no interest in improving work conditions.
There are several small characters who make brief appearances or are briefly mentioned in the story. Janet's son, for instance appears at the exhibit briefly to ask his mother for money. He is sadly arrested after buying drugs and sent to prison for ten years. The news of this brings great sadness to Janet. Janet's mother is in ailing health, and the unnamed protagonist's wife and son are steadily falling into economic desperation as the son becomes sick.
Unlock This Study Guide Now
Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.
- 30,000+ book summaries
- 20% study tools discount
- Ad-free content
- PDF downloads
- 300,000+ answers
- 5-star customer support