Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 914
The Asian Girl is a physical manifestation of a woman David was involved with in Vietnam. She may or may not be dead in real life. When she first enters the house, only David can sense her presence. At the end of Act I, he can see her and touches her so she will stay with him. David needs her more than he needs any member of his family. Ozzie, Harriet, and to some degree, Rick hate her and what she represents to David. In Act II, Ozzie and the others can see her. Near the end of the play, Ozzie strangles her and then hides her body. The family feels relief after she, and what she represents, is gone.
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David is the center of the play. He is Ozzie and Harriet's older son and Rick's older brother. David has returned to his family's home after serving in Vietnam. He is now blind and traumatized by the things he saw and participated in during the war. He also misses a Vietnamese girl he was involved with and left behind, Zung. David first senses, then sees, a physical manifestation of this woman during the play. David has a hard time adjusting to his life with his parents and brother. They do not want to hear about his experiences in Vietnam—especially about Zung—rather, they want everything to go back to normal. David's physical disability and mental anguish disturb Ozzie, Harriet, and Rick's superficial existence, causing each member to act out in his or her own way. He challenges them too much, and he hates them. In the end, David's presence cannot be tolerated. Rick suggests that David kill himself. With the family's help, it is implied that David's suicide takes place.
Father Donald is the entire family's spiritual mentor, though his most faithful follower is Harriet. It is she who calls him to talk to David about his involvement with the Asian Girl. When Father Donald attempts to comfort him, David uses his cane as a weapon that he physically attacks the priest with and drives him out of the home. After the experience, Father Donald does not return Harriet's calls.
Harriet is the mother of David and Rick, and wife of Ozzie. She is a stereotypical suburban mother. Her primary functions are cooking for and serving her family, cleaning the house, and supporting her men. Harriet looks to Father Donald for moral and spiritual guidance. Her world is turned upside down when David returns from Vietnam and has been changed by the experience. Harriet cannot understand why David finds her home so intolerable. She tries to reach out to him, but every time she does, it is not to understand him but to make him understand what she and the family want from him. Harriet is especially appalled by David's involvement with the Asian Girl. Using racial epithets, Harriet repeatedly expresses that she finds it unacceptable that David touched someone she describes as "yellow" and a "whore." Ozzie's increasingly disturbing behavior also bothers her, but Harriet finds it much easier to communicate with him. She is ultimately most comfortable making sure Rick has his fudge and other snacks. In the end, Harriet supports Rick's effort to get David to kill himself. She brings pans and towels to put under David's wrists so he will not make a mess on her carpet.
Ozzie is the head of the household, Harriet's husband, and David and Rick's father. Like Harriet, Ozzie is also greatly disturbed by David's physical and mental state on his return home. It reminds him of his experiences in World War II in vehicle production as well as of his own lost youth. Ozzie cannot understand what David went through or what he is feeling. He also shares Harriet's racial prejudices against the Vietnamese woman that David was involved with. Though Ozzie shares Harriet and Rick's desire to live in an orderly, superficial family, his anger and frustration often come through, sometimes in disturbing ways. These emotions are heightened by David's continuing presence. Like David, Ozzie engages in some odd actions. For example, Ozzie calls the police about his own home and son, pretending to be someone else. He claims everyone in the house is strange. Later, Ozzie strangles the physical manifestation of the Asian Girl when he finally is able to see her. At the end of the play, he supports Rick's effort to get David to kill himself.
Rick is the younger brother of David and the son of Ozzie and Harriet. Like his parents, Rick is disturbed by David's presence and attitude upon his return, though it is more out of annoyance, if not jealousy, than any kind of real concern. Rick is self-centered and selfish. He is about seventeen years old and good-looking. He plays the guitar, which he carries everywhere, and sings. Rick is also an avid photographer, taking pictures of everyone, usually at bad moments. Nearly every time he enters the room, he wants his mother to serve him food (fudge, ice cream, soda, milk, etc.). Family issues are of secondary importance to Rick, something he handles with superficial conversation. Rick's selfishness reaches a climax at the end of the play when he first knocks David unconscious by bashing him on the head with his guitar, then convinces David to commit suicide. Rick offers David his own razor to commit the deed and helps him along.
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