Philadelphia, Here I Come! Characters
by Brian Friel

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Philadelphia, Here I Come! Characters

Gareth "Gar" O'Donnell (Gar Public)

There are two characters that comprise Gar, the protagonist of this play. The first is Gar Public, who wants to move from Ireland to America to start a new life. He is a nice young man and speaks to others with respect and politeness, but Gar Private is always around with a snarky comment or a deeper emotion to contend with.

Gareth "Gar" O'Donnell (Gar Private)

In Gar's words, Gar Private is his alter ego. He expresses Gar's secret thoughts, opinions, and wishes. He seems to have something to say about everyone and has a harder time saying goodbye to his family than Gar Public would like to let on.

S. B. O'Donnell

S. B. O'Donnell is Gar's father. He is completely closed off emotionally, which upsets Gar. Gar wants more than anything to see his father have some sort of reaction to his leaving, but S. B. seems incapable of this.


Madge is Gar and S. B.'s housekeeper. She has been with the family since Gar was a child, and she is more like a mother or aunt figure to Gar than a maid. S. B.'s closed-off nature bothers her too, and she tries her best to get the men to just admit that they love each other before it is too late.

Kate Doogan

Kate Doogan is the love of Gar's life—and one of the biggest reasons he is leaving Ireland. She loves Gar, but she married another man because Gar was too afraid to ask her father for her hand and didn't have enough financial stability.

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Gareth (Gar) O’Donnell (Public)

Gareth (Gar) O’Donnell (Public), who is in his early twenties and is the son of a small shopkeeper in the Ballybeg, a small village in County Donegal, Ireland. On the eve of his departure for Philadelphia, where he will live with his aunt and uncle, Gar is eager to escape the limitations of life in Ireland: the taciturn father who cannot show affection, the girl who married another man, the friends caught in a state of perpetual adolescence, and the job with little present and no future. America represents the proverbial land of opportunity for Gar, but to pursue that opportunity he will have to leave the father and the country that—however they madden him—he loves deeply. The play catches Gar at the moment of absolute and irreversible transition from one life to another, and he is intelligent enough to sense what that transition will mean.

Gareth (Gar) O’Donnell (Private)

Gareth (Gar) O’Donnell (Private), the unseen Gar, “the man within, the conscience, the alter ego, the secret thoughts, the id.” Only Gar Public can see or hear Gar Private, and Gar Public never looks at him, even when they converse, because “One cannot look at one’s alter ego.” The two Gars are played by different actors and are always together. Gar Public is polite, quiet, and ordinary (at least while he is with others). Gar Private is sardonic, flip, irreverent, and constantly ready to identify and laugh at the attitudes and foibles of both Irishmen and Americans.

S. B. O’Donnell

S. B. O’Donnell, Gar’s father, a dour shopkeeper, a creature of habit who finds it almost impossible to put his feelings into words and so cannot frame a farewell for the son whom he probably will never see again. His sleeplessness and inability to concentrate on the newspaper are the only signs of the deep emotion that he is feeling. Gar, driven to desperation by his failure to make contact with his father, thinks of him as “Skrewballs” or “Skinflint,” but Madge believes that Gar will end up just like his father.


Madge, the unmarried live-in housekeeper for Gar and his father. Kind and more an old friend of the family than a servant, she is the closest thing to a mother that Gar (whose mother died in childbirth) has known. Wise about both father and son, she tries to help bridge the gap between them, but there is little that she can do. Madge combines a sharp tongue with the warmest and most unselfish of natures; she is one of the world’s givers.

Kate Doogan

Kate Doogan, the lively Irish beauty whom Gar loves and who loves...

(The entire section is 1,141 words.)