George Antrobus, a citizen of the world. He wants to believe in the goodness of humankind and the survival of the race, but often his faith is shaken. A kind and generous man, he insists that starving refugees from the cold then enveloping the world be admitted to the house and fed, whereas his practical wife does not want to take them in. A good provider, he obtains a boat so that he can save his family during the big flood. After the great war, he decides to try to live in peace with his vicious son Henry. Striving to regain his confidence in humankind, he takes comfort in his books, his home, and the good people of the world.
Mrs. Antrobus, George’s wife. She is a typical middle-class mother who loves her family and willingly sacrifices herself to their needs. Her typically female responses enable her to hold her husband, survive catastrophes, and perpetuate the race. When she is about to lose George to Sabina, she takes advantage of the coming great flood to bring him back to duty and family. When the great war comes, she finds safety in the basement for herself, her daughter, and, most important of all, her new grandchild.
Gladys Antrobus, their daughter, a wholesome girl much like her mother. Content to remain within the security of the family circle, she survives the great flood. By hiding in the basement, she and her new baby survive the great war as well.
Henry Antrobus, formerly called Cain, the Antrobuses’ son, a nonconformist. When he hits his brother with a stone and accidentally kills him, his parents change his name from Cain to Henry and thereafter make every effort to hide his past. In another fit of hate, he kills a neighbor with a stone. In the great war, his aggressive temperament enables him to rise from the rank of corporal to that of general.
Sabina, the maid in the Antrobus household. She is the former mistress of George, who had brought her back from the Sabine rape. She leaves the Antrobuses and, as Miss Lily-Sabina Fairweather, wins a beauty contest at Atlantic City, after which she tries unsuccessfully to win back George.
Moses, a judge,
Homer, a blind beggar with a guitar,
Miss E. Muse
Miss E. Muse,
Miss T. Muse
Miss T. Muse, and
Miss M. Muse
Miss M. Muse, refugees from the killing cold who stop at the Antrobus house hoping to find food and warmth.
The Announcer's voice narrates the slides and describes the "News Events of the World" at the beginning of Act I and Act II.
Mr. Antrobus is the father of not only a typical suburban American family but also the entire human race. The play's central character, he possesses the virtues and flaws of both the biblical Adam and the American Everyman. The inventor of the wheel and the alphabet, he "comes of very old stock and has made his way up from next to nothing." In Act I, he is the hardworking and innovative businessman who loves his family and values his books and must preserve them all from the approaching Ice Age. In Act II, he is the President of the Order of Mammals who is tempted to leave his wife for a beauty contest winner, but with the onslaught of catastrophic rains, he returns to his family and loads them—along with his potential mistress and two of every kind of animal—onto a ship that will withstand the coming flood. And finally in Act in, he returns to his family after a seven-year war, ready to unearth his books and rebuild civilization.
The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus, Gladys is constantly admonished to act like a lady, put down her dress, and not wear makeup or red stockings. Her mother reminds her that she should try to be as perfect as Mr. Antrobus thinks she is, and she does attempt to please her father by reciting lessons. But in Act in she appears with an apparently illegitimate baby which seems to be the result of her Irrepressible sexuality.
The son of Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus, Henry is introduced as "a real,...
(The entire section is 1,882 words.)