The Philadelphia Story

by Philip Barry

Start Free Trial

Characters Discussed

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Tracy Lord

Tracy Lord, a strikingly beautiful young woman of twenty-four, nicknamed “Red” by Dexter Haven because of her red hair. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College. Divorced from Dexter Haven, who criticized her as a virgin goddess, a married maiden, and the quintessential Type Philadelphiaensis, she could be the finest woman on earth, he claims, if she could overcome an intolerance against human frailty. She insists that she does not want to be worshiped but wants to be loved. Defending herself from Mike Connor’s prejudice, she argues that classes do not matter “except for the people in them” and that “there aren’t any rules about human beings.”

C. K. Dexter Haven

C. K. Dexter Haven, a twenty-eight-year-old formerly married, for ten months, to Tracy in an impulse marriage. He designs and races sailboats and plays polo. He drinks a bit too much and once slugged Tracy, who was a scold rather than a helpmate in their brief marriage. Urbane, witty, and with an honest if sarcastic outspokenness, he argues that occasional misdeeds are often as good for a person as the more persistent virtues. He is still in love with Tracy, thinks she is remarrying beneath her, and maneuvers to get her back. As an in-joke, he is named for the playwright’s friend, professor of English Dexter Haven of The Johns Hopkins University.

Macaulay (Mike) Connor

Macaulay (Mike) Connor, a thirty-year-old writer from South Bend sent by Destiny magazine to write up Tracy’s high-society wedding as part of a series on the Philadelphia story. A self-styled Jeffersonian Democrat, he dislikes the assignment, has a bias against the wealthy, and thinks the idle rich like Tracy have no right to exist. She in turn considers him an intellectual snob, but she is attracted to his sardonic iconoclasm. Tracy argues that the time to make up your mind about people is “never” and that he should follow the advice in one of his own stories, “With the Rich and Mighty Always a Little Patience.” His external toughness masks a poetic sensibility that is evident in his books. Before the play is over, he has come to admire Tracy and Dexter and to see that Tracy’s fiancé, who has come up from the proletariat, is really a heel. Tracy cannot understand how, when he can write so well, he wastes his time doing cheap work for expensive magazines. His books, however, have earned practically no money for him. A drunken evening with him, involving two kisses and a nude swim, humanizes Tracy, severs her engagement to Kittredge, and helps her return to Dexter.

Elizabeth Imbrie

Elizabeth Imbrie, a twenty-eight-year-old photographer from Destiny who really wanted to be a painter. Divorced from a hardware salesman in Duluth, she is in love with Mike Connor.

Dinah Lord

Dinah Lord, Tracy’s wisecracking thirteen-year-old sister, who prefers Dexter to George Kittredge. By chance, she witnesses Tracy’s drunkenness. The next morning, she tells Tracy, who would rather forget the incident, as she claims to have forgotten a similar one during her marriage to Dexter.

Seth Lord

Seth Lord, age fifty, Tracy’s father, a banker who is separated from his wife and living in New York, where he has backed three shows for a dancer, Tina Mara. He has a controlling interest in George Kittredge’s company. Tracy pretends that he is her Uncle Willie. She is unforgiving of his philandering, though he says that middle-aged philandering has nothing to do with a wife and is rather an expression of reluctance to grow old. He argues that the one thing Tracy lacks is an understanding heart and...

(This entire section contains 832 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

that she is a prig and a perennial spinster. Becoming reunited with Dexter also reunites her with her father.

Alexander “Sandy” Lord

Alexander “Sandy” Lord, age twenty-six, the brother of Tracy and Dinah, newly a father. He invited Mike Connor and Elizabeth Imbrie to stay for the wedding, in turn for their keeping Seth Lord’s affair out of the news. Sandy works for The Saturday Evening Post.

Margaret Lord

Margaret Lord, the mother of Tracy, Dinah, and Sandy, forty-seven years old but appearing and acting younger. She is estranged from her husband, largely at Tracy’s insistence.

George Kittredge

George Kittredge, Tracy’s handsome, thirty-two-year-old fiancé. He worked his way up from the bottom to become general manager of Quaker State Coal. Tracy thinks that she is in love with him, but she actually is on the rebound from Dexter, who says that “Kittredge is no great tower of strength. . . . He is just a tower.” Despite his working-class origins, Kittredge is a snob. Unlike Dexter, he admires Tracy’s distant, cool goddess quality. When he sees her in Mike’s arms after a nude swim, he instantly concludes the worst.

William Tracy

William Tracy, known as Uncle Willie, Margaret Lord’s older brother (by fifteen years) and Tracy’s uncle. He is a defense lawyer. Tracy pretends that he is her father.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Mike (Macauly) Connor
Mike Connor is the author of a novel and a collection of short stories. Yet because creative writing does not earn enough money, Mike is reduced to writing ‘‘cheap stuff for expensive magazines,’’ such as his present assignment to cover the Lord-Kittredge wedding.

Although he is initially hostile to the Lord family, his feelings soon change. He warms to Sandy, who joins forces with him in attacking Sidney Kidd, and he is attracted to Tracy’s charm and beauty. At play’s end, Mike even offers to marry Tracy, who gently but firmly rebuffs him. Although his future is left uncertain, it seems plain that Mike will leave his job at Destiny and perhaps become involved with Liz.

C.K. Dexter Haven
Dexter is a young, good-looking man. Wealthy and privileged, he has a passion for designing and racing yachts. He is still in love with his ex-wife, Tracy. At one point in the play, Dexter harshly attacks Tracy for her judgmental and unforgiving attitude when he was battling alcoholism, and criticizes her choice of Kittredge for a husband.

However, these attacks do not really resolve the unspoken question, which is never adequately addressed in the play: how abusive was Dexter to Tracy? Nonetheless, with some skillful targeting of his rival’s weak points, Dexter manages to get rid of his rival for Tracy’s affections; consequently, he proposes to her for a second time, and she promptly accepts.

Liz Imbrie
Liz Imbrie is the photographer who accompanies Mike to do a story on the Lord family. A young career woman, she provides a contrast to Tracy Lord’s privileged but somewhat vacant existence. She is in love with Mike.

George Kittredge
George Kittredge is a handsome, industrious self-made millionaire. His fiancee, Tracy, admires him because she views him as ‘‘a great man and good man; already he’s of national importance.’’ Tracy is attracted by the qualities that made him so newsworthy in the past: his ‘‘rags to riches’’ life history, his popularity, and his charismatic speaking power. Yet she fails to see that Kittredge’s rapid rise through the ranks owes much to his own ambition and class aspirations.

Tracy represents high society for Kittredge, and he believes that his marriage to her will signal his acceptance by upper-class society. His subsequent rejection of Tracy, on the most pompous terms possible, suggests that he still has much to learn about love and perception.

Dinah Lord
Dinah is the younger of the two Lord sisters. She is a precocious young woman, prone to occasional malapropisms, and rather assured of her own maturity—when she is in fact, at times, quite strikingly innocent. Dinah is fond of her brother and sister as well as Dexter. She clearly wishes that Tracy and Dexter had remained together, and she impulsively invites Dexter to come over, hoping that his presence will remind Tracy of past happiness.

Dinah joins Tracy in pretending to the Destiny reporters that the Lord family is eccentric and pretentious. Her most entertaining moment, however, comes at the play’s end when she misinterprets Mike’s presence in Tracy’s bedroom and melodramatically marshals the family’s resources in order to save Tracy from her ‘‘illikit passion’’ and marriage to Kittredge.

Margaret Lord
Margaret is the mother of Tracy, Dinah, and Sandy. An attractive woman, she has put up with her husband’s philandering for many years. They are separated at the time of the play.

Sandy Lord
Sandy is Tracy’s younger brother. A newspaper editor working for the Saturday Evening Post, he is light-hearted and witty. Unlike Tracy, he has made a happy marriage; in fact, his wife has just given birth to their first child. Sandy, like Tracy, is concerned about the family’s reputation, and arranges a deal with Destiny editor Sidney Kidd: the magazine will suppress its planned expose of Seth Lord’s affairs and instead print a story about Tracy’s marriage.

However, Sandy decides to write an expose on Kidd with Mike and Liz. In part, the expose is intended as revenge for the intrusive prying into the family business; in addition, it is meant as punishment to the man who has sold out Liz’s and Mike’s creative talents for a few dollars.

Seth Lord
Seth Lord is Tracy’s father. A wealthy and successful man, he has long been involved with a colorful dancer named Tara Maine. This seems to have been the cause of his separation from his longsuffering wife, Margaret. However, Seth has other explanations for his adultery and for the collapse of his marriage: he blames Tracy’s critical attitude for his pursuit of the youthful dancer, and argues that the ‘‘ideal daughter’’ would be one who ‘‘blindly’’ loves her father and believes that ‘‘he can do no wrong.’’ Tracy and her father reconcile by the end of the play.

Tracy Lord
Tracy Lord is the eldest daughter of Margaret and Seth Lord. Her beauty, wealth, wit, and cleverness hide a somewhat static interior. As a young woman, she eloped with her childhood friend, the equally wealthy and leisured C.K. Dexter Haven. They divorced after just ten months because of his excessive drinking and abuse. As the play opens, she is just a day away from marrying a self-made and industrious man named George Kittredge.

However, the situation is not as rosy as it seems. Tracy still has feelings for her ex-husband, and is deeply hurt by his bitter criticism of her as unfeeling and intolerant. Furthermore, she is profoundly alienated from her philandering father, Seth Lord. She starts to believe that she has made a mistake with Kittredge; she realizes that he has views and dreams that are strikingly different from her own. Lastly, Tracy finds herself attracted to the attractive, liberal writer Mike Connor, who sees past her brittle facade and tough manner. Tracy’s final decision—to remarry her ex-husband—represents an attempt to recapture the happiness they once shared together.

Mac is the night watchman.

Uncle Willie
Uncle Willie is Tracy’s good-natured uncle. He is a philanderer and pinches women’s bottoms when he has the chance.




Critical Essays