Tommy Wilhelm, born Wilhelm Adler, an unemployed salesman living at the Gloriana Hotel in New York City. Middle-aged and separated from his wife and sons, Tommy is mired in a professional and personal slump. Almost broke, he seeks financial help but longs for spiritual solace as well, and he appeals to those around him for any help they can offer. His pleas to his father, not simply for money but for compassion or even a kind word, are met with scolding and impatient sighs of disgust. Down on his luck and reeling from some recent mistakes, Tommy is largely innocent of the selfishness and irresponsibility of which he is accused. Although misguided at times, he emerges as the most forgiving character in the story, compassionate even toward the father who has rejected him and torn inside at the thought that he might not be able to provide for the needs of his own two sons. Tommy’s struggles and his search for a humane response to his need underscore the novel’s major themes—suffering, compassion, and the blindness of greed.
Dr. Adler, Tommy’s father, a retired physician. Elderly and somewhat frail, Dr. Adler also lives at the Gloriana Hotel, but his substantial wealth allows him to indulge his taste for the luxuries the hotel offers—fine dining, saunas, and massages. It is not merely in his financial status, however, that he provides a stark contrast to his son. Tommy’s sufferings, though not enviable, are at least evidence of a rich inner life, and the pain that he feels is rooted in a concern for others as well as for himself. Dr. Adler, on the other hand, is moved to no emotion save anger, and even that he suppresses. He complains that the needs of others, even those of his own son, are an unwelcome burden on his hard-earned self-sufficiency. His sympathies, though never visible, are allegedly...
(The entire section is 770 words.)