Themes and Characters
John Conlan's father and mother, whom he has dubbed Bore and Hyper respectively, are more than forty years older than John. His mother is a compulsive cleaner, while his father, a former alcoholic with heart trouble, wants John to join him and John's older brother Ken at the Exchange. The Conlans appear worn out as parents and irritated by John's youthful imagination, and they wish he were grown up and out of the house. John, meanwhile, does his best to justify this irritation. John's ambition to become an actor does not meet with his parents' approval, and his flamboyance contrasts with his parents' conformity.
Lorraine Jensen's mother, a nurse who specializes in the care of dying cancer patients, steals from the families she helps and has a morbid fear of men, probably because her former husband abandoned her several years earlier. Lorraine's insecurities stem from Mrs. Jensen's constant nagging and devastating remarks about Lorraine's appearance. Lorraine's interest in writing and psychology arises from an attempt to understand her mother and her own situation.
Norton Kelly, another important character, is John and Lorraine's age. He enjoys thievery and inflicting cruelty on others, probably because he feels rejected himself. Norton and John are both outsiders, but they hate each other. Norton wants to steal from Mr. Pignati and hopes to use John as an informer against the old man. Norton's anger over not being invited to the party at Mr. Pignati's house and his envy of John and Lorraine result in the destruction of Mr. Pignati's pig collection. This act, more than the other destruction caused by the party, damages John and Lorraine's relationship with Mr. Pignati, for Norton destroys the symbol of Mr. Pignati's love for his deceased wife.
Angelo Pignati, a retired widower, is at once a parent and a child to Lorraine and John. He enjoys their company as if he were their child and is eager to roller skate, play games, and tell jokes. At the same time, he substitutes as a parent, opening his home to Lorraine and John and giving them treats their...
(The entire section is 523 words.)