Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1308

Agnes Agnes is described as a ‘‘middle-aged woman, very neat, very tense, very tired.’’ According to the author, Agnes is someone who has ‘‘tried all her life to do the right thing, and the attempt has made her unsure of herself.’’ She is Felicity’s oldest daughter and her only surviving child. She shares with the interviewer that she suffers from psychosomatic headaches. They are so much a part of her that she has trouble recognizing them unless they have ‘‘gone away.’’ Living in the shadow of her deceased sister, Claire, it appears that Agnes is consumed with pleasing her mother, with caring for her adequately during her illness, despite ongoing abuse from her mother, and the disruption Felicity’s illness creates in her life. When asked about her sister or her mother, Agnes has little difficulty in relaying all of the details of their lives. But when asked what she will do when her mother dies, she looks at the interviewer in silence. Agnes also admits that after one of her mother’s hospital stays, she wrote a letter in response to her mother’s own letter, posing as Claire. She has continually written such letters, claiming that it gives her mother hope, that ‘‘it makes her happy.’’ But when the interviewer asks Agnes what ‘‘makes her happy,’’ she is startled and immediately redirects the focus back to her mother’s condition.

Beverly Beverly is a surprise guest at Cottage Two, and much to Mark’s dismay, she is his lover Brian’s colorful ex-wife. Beverly is a world traveler, an adventurer, and a bit of a drunk. She enters the cottage in an expensive, though soiled and torn, evening dress decorated with ‘‘bits of jewelry’’ and hidden by a ‘‘yellow slicker raincoat and rubber boots.’’ Despite her physical attractiveness, she has a rather bawdy sense of humor and throughout the play can be observed swigging from a gin bottle strategically placed in her purse. What makes Beverly an endearing character is her ability to be brutally honest or frank, yet at the same time interject humor into an otherwise grave situation. She is able to illuminate the reality of Brian’s disease both to the patient and to his lover, appeasing or comforting one while alienating the other. Her ability to see Mark’s true character is also apparent. She reminds Mark that Brian needs him.

Brian Brian is the second terminally ill patient, introduced in the work as ‘‘a graceful man . . . simple, direct, straightforward,’’ who ‘‘possesses an agile mind and a childlike joy about life.’’ Of all of the characters, Brian seems to have taken considerably more time to ponder his life for the sake of productivity— his past relationships, his accomplishments, his hopes and dreams unfulfilled, as well as what it means to be dying. During a conversation with his ex-wife, when asked about his newfound interest in writing, Brian says, ‘‘I realized that there was a lot to do that I hadn’t done yet. So I figured I better . . . start working.’’ For Brian, ‘‘working’’ means liquidating or selling off all of his personal assets and burying the money in a sock on Staten Island, visiting Passaic, New Jersey, just to go, or writing an endless stream of literature. Besides being a dreamer of sorts, Brian is the philosophical voice of the work. He is resolved to forgive and forget the fact that his ex-wife walked out on him. Brian has come to terms with his past, and in doing so, his universe has opened up.

Felicity Described as being sixty or seventy and wheelchair bound, Felicity is surprisingly...

(This entire section contains 1308 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

feisty, if not somewhat senile, and openly hostile to both the interviewer and her daughter Agnes. She refers to the interviewer as ‘‘you and your people’’ who’ve ‘‘all come to look at the dead people.’’ Felicity’s assessment of her daughter is not encouraging either, telling the interviewer, ‘‘She’s a little slow. It’s not her fault. Not too pretty and not too bright,’’ and warns the interviewer ‘‘you have to be careful of Agnes. She’s jealous.’’ Felicity also appears to be suffering from dementia, speaking to the interviewer of life on her dairy farm as if she were still there, and of her deceased daughter Claire as if still alive. She holds onto these memories, according to her daughter, to keep herself going, to maintain a sense of hope. According to the interviewer, however, these memories may be the only thing keeping her alive.

Interviewer The mysterious interviewer never reveals him or herself to the audience. This character definitely works for the hospital and appears to be a clinician. Whether he or she is a psychiatrist is unclear. It is also clear to the interviewer’s subjects that meetings with the interviewer are research driven. More importantly, however, it is through the probing questions of the interviewer that the audience becomes privileged to information others do not have.

Joe Act I opens with Joe, a terminally ill patient and resident of Cottage One, speaking to the interviewer. He is described as being a ‘‘strong, thick-set man, a little bit clumsy with moving and talking, but full of energy.’’ It has been six months since Joe has seen his wife and son, and after a long hospital stay, he is a bit anxious about a family reunion. Although Joe reveals to the interviewer his fears about dying, he is quick to point out that it is his wife’s mental state that troubles him deeply. When the interviewer tells Joe that he ‘‘seems’’ to be ‘‘fine,’’ Joe responds half-heartedly, distracted by the momentary arrival of his family, saying, ‘‘Oh, me. Yeah sure, but Maggie.’’ Joe does express his own personal feelings concerning his illness to Maggie, despite her continued resistance to discuss such matters. He is a realist and faces his disease and feelings head on. Joe talks about his dreams and his anger at lost opportunity.

Maggie Amid a ‘‘mass of bundles, shopping bags and suitcases,’’ Maggie approaches the cottage, dressed up yet looking a mess. She is not just Joe’s wife, or Steve’s mother, but also the troop leader and family organizer. Despite her obvious leadership abilities, often times Maggie appears to be nervous, easily excitable, and highly agitated by her surroundings as well as by interactions with her husband. She reacts frantically to Joe and his attempts to talk to her about his disease, avoiding connection with Joe’s illness by refusing to discuss it. After months of separation, she tells Joe that he ‘‘doesn’t have to tell’’ her about his condition, that she can see Joe is ‘‘fine.’’ More dramatically, Maggie refuses to walk into the cottage, stating ‘‘I’ll go when I’m good and ready.’’ In a tense moment, she resorts to slapping her son and fleeing from the cottage to avoid entering Joe’s world.

Mark Male companion and nurse to Brian, Mark is a somber character in the work. In contrast to Brian, he is rather serious, appears to be overly protective, and is a bit standoffish with Brian’s ex-wife, Beverly. Upon meeting her, he immediately launches into an explanation of his experiences with Brian, as if the pain and suffering were his own. Mark warns her of Brian’s changed appearance in graphic detail.

In revealing details of his relationship with Brian to Beverly, the audience discovers entirely different, selfish motives for Mark’s devotion to his dying lover. He admits to working as a male prostitute before being invited into Brian’s home. For Mark, Brian is his second chance. Now Brian’s death means Mark is finished too.

Steve Steve is Joe’s son, an energetic boy of fourteen. Unaware of Joe’s illness, Steve becomes the subject of controversy between his father and mother, Maggie.




Critical Essays